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According to the personal written statement of Navy Captain Charles J. Leidig, Jr., entered into the record during today’s hearings before the National Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon the United States, Leidig revealed that on September 10 he was asked by Brigadier General Montague Winfield to stand a portion of his duty as Deputy Director for Operations for the National Military Command Center (NMCC), which would require supervision and operation of all necessary communications as watch commander.
Leidig said "On 10 September 2001, Brigadier General Winfield, U.S. Army, asked that I stand a portion of his duty as Deputy Director for Operations, NMCC, on the following day. [September 11] I agreed and relieved Brigadier General Winfield at 0830 on 11 September 2001."
Winfield had requested Leidig to assume his watch at what turned out to be the very outset of the September 11 attacks--but even after American Flight 11 had already been determined to be hijacked just minutes before Winfield handed over his watch to Leidig.
Captain Leidig’s Commission statement was 1.25 typewritten pages, large font, and double-spaced--the shortest written statement provided by any 9-11 Commission deponent as observed by this writer since the commencement of the probe.
News reports today and into the evening commented upon the abysmal handling of communications during the attacks, which calls into question why Winfield handed over control of communications to Leidig during the attacks when he knew the Captain had just met the supervision qualifications to stand watch some 30 days earlier:
"Approximately two months prior to 11 September 2001, I assumed duties as the Deputy for Command Center Operations in the J3 Directorate of the Joint Staff. In this role, I was responsible for the maintenance, operation, and training of watch teams for the NMCC."
"Further, I qualified in August 2001 to stand watch as the Deputy Director for Operations in the NMCC....Shortly after assuming duty, I received the first report of a plane’s striking the World Trade Center....In response to these events, I convened a Significant Event Conference, which was subsequently upgraded to an Air Threat Conference."
WHITE HOUSE CONNECTED TO NMCC
The National Transportation and Safety Board auditorium had been quiet until an individual stood up and repeatedly questioned why the Commission was not addressing the issue of 9-11 war games--specifically Operation Vigilant Guardian--wherein fighters were already in the air during the attacks, some just minutes away from New York City. The legitimate questions were ignored and the petitioner was removed by secret service and FBI agents.
Commissioner John Lehman offered that while Air Force Generals Richard Meyers, Ralph Eberhart and Larry Arnold (Ret.) had been questioned, no one had asked any questions of the "only sailor in the group," Captain Leidig.
Lehman asked Leidig about the controlled phone bridges or conferences held during the attacks, which the Captain confirmed were classified and secure phone lines while also indicating that "the President can be included" in such teleconferences.
After some discussion about certain difficulties reaching the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and compatibility issues in connections, Leidig confirmed that Vice President Cheney and the White House were connected to the phone bridges.
At that point Chairman Kean cut off Lehman’s line of questioning and proceeded to Commissioner Timothy Roemer who picked up on Lehman's phone bridge issue; whereupon Leidig again confirmed that "I was connected to the White House." [during the Significant Event Conference, which became an Air Threat Conference.] Then Leidig added that the NMCC was connected to Air Force One.
COMMENCEMENT OF THE PHONE BRIDGES
Immediately at the close of testimony by Myers, Eberhart, Arnold and Leidig, this writer quickly walked to the head table to individually question Leidig before his aides could escort him from the auditorium. The Air Force generals had left quickly.
When asked "Can you tell me the approximate time when you commenced your supervision of the phone bridges," Leidig told TomFlocco.com, "You’ll have to look in the records and Commission staff statements. I can’t recall the time."
We then offered to Leidig, "it had to be prior to 8:30 am, because the President said ‘I know what’s going on in New York City, and I’ll have more to say about it later in the day,’ a statement which was confirmed at 8:30 and 8:35 am in two separate news reports just before Mr. Bush stepped into his limousine for the drive to the elementary school."
That fact alone should have raised the eyebrows of anyone realizing that the President was aware there was a hijacking related to his prior intelligence briefings, consistent with terrorists commandeering airplanes; yet Mr. Bush continued on to the school instead of canceling to assume immediate leadership in the defense of the nation.
"You’ll have to check the records. I can’t remember," said Leidig, gathering up his papers and briefcase and leaning toward the door.
Interestingly, Leidig had also told Lehman and Roemer that Winfield relieved him and reassumed his duties as Deputy Director for Operations for the NMCC just before United Flight 93 crashed in Pennsylvania and the attacks were over, which would have been near 10:00 am, during what became an Air Threat phone conference.
All of which raises questions regarding why the experienced Winfield left his watch after the attacks had begun, what prompted Winfield to request Leidig to assume his watch the next morning, why Winfield chose 8:30 am to have Leidig relieve him, why the Commission never addressed these issues, and whether Winfield had access to intelligence from the CIA and FBI which foretold a "spectacular attack, designed to inflict mass casualties against U.S. facilities or interests. Attack preparations have been made. Attack will occur with little or no warning." (CIA Intelligence Report for White House, July 5, 2001--60+ days prior to 9-11, Newsweek, 5-1-2003 / The Hill, 5-1-2003)
President Bush is attended by a round-the-clock Secret Service detail which would of necessity been connected to the secure phone bridge conference lines.
Most Americans think that President Bush first became aware of the attacks when his Chief of Staff Andrew Card whispered in his ear at 9:06 am at the elementary school while he was meeting with the first graders. Facts indicate otherwise.
Laura Brown, Public Affairs Director at the FAA, initially told this writer at the first 9-11 hearing in Washington that the phone bridges started around 8:20 or 8:25 am, which would be reasonable since American 11 was determined to be hijacked at 8:13, 8:20 or 8:24 am.
This, depending upon which news report, official, or air traffic controller is referenced--and to what extent one permits the government to shorten the official time-line of the actual attacks, thus reducing potential culpability should a grand jury ever be impaneled.
After returning to her office and conferring with superiors, Brown sent an email to this writer later that same evening after 7:00 pm, revising her initial assertions for the commencement of Leidig’s phone bridges to around 8:45 am, thus shortening the official attack time-line to the government's advantage.
Brown had originally said that North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD), Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, National Security Council (NSC), Secret Service, and FAA were all connected to the NMCC. But Brown did not mention the White House at the time.
In May, 2003 the Commission was informed that the Pentagon had taped the Significant Event/Air Threat conference call during the attacks; and after repeated requests, the Pentagon created a classified transcript. (US News, 9-8-2003)
On August 6, the White House conducted what was termed an "executive privilege" review of the transcript for the phone bridge conference-call in order to censor the document, likely for "national security" reasons.
While the issue of the Air Force shooting down a civilian passenger jet was discussed thoroughly, an unanswered question remains as to why President Bush continued to read to the elementary children long after reporters had left the room to cover the attacks, while American citizens were simultaneously jumping to their deaths from the World Trade Center towers--while America was under attack.
Moreover, all facts indicate that President Bush was well aware of summer-long threats consistent with hijacking planes via Presidential Daily Briefs and terrorist threat assessment reports, but also anti-aircraft batteries and closed Italian airspace at his G-8 summit in Genoa (just six weeks prior to 9-11) to protect against hijacked Arab suicide planes, according to Russian intelligence.
With these prior warnings in his mind, President Bush still drove to the school, then sat and read to the children while his American constituents jumped and died at the exact same time.
Facts indicate Mr. Bush knew about the first hijacking before 8:30 am--more that 15 minutes before any of the four planes crashed, and well over one and a half hours before the last plane impacted in Pennsylvania. Yet there was no military response.
An impaneled grand jury would have the latitude to delve into why General Montague Winfield chose 8:30 am on the morning of the attacks to turn over his watch duty to Captain Leidig--a point which Leidig almost reminds Americans in his statement, if only to give himself some cover in the eyes of future historians who continue to analyze the "bungled communications" and "lack of preparedness" during the attacks.
Apparently however, President Bush was quite satisfied with the job that Winfield and Leidig accomplished before, during and after the attacks during their exchange of military command center watch duties.
In May, 2003 Bush nominated Brigadier General Matague Winfield for promotion to the two-star rank of Major General and Captain Charles Leidig has been nominated by the President to the two-star rank of Navy Admiral.
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