Sunday, January 21, 2007

Proper Procedure?

9-11 Deniers love to claim that if the proper procedures have been followed, all four planes would have been shot down before they reached their targets. Of course, this would still have resulted in a 9-11 "Truth" Movement, just with different charges:

The airliners were shot down so that Ted Olsen could get out of his marriage! Todd Beamer had discovered something in the Oracle databases that indicated the Florida 2000 election should have been won by Gore!


Ad nauseum. But I've never really looked into the question of shooting down aircraft by the military. As it happens, there is a procedure, and the procedure as of June 2001 said that the military may not shoot down planes:

3. Procedures

a. General. Military personel will provide the following types of support: intercept, surveillance, lift, equipment and communications. Military personnel may not participate in a search, seizure, arrest or similar activity. This restriction would include the apprehension of aircraft hijackers or use of military aircraft (fixed-wing or helicopter) or other vehicles as platforms for gunfire or the use of other weapons against suspected hijackers.


Of course there could be a shoot-down order, because the Commander in Chief could supersede these standing orders. But the notion that shooting down the planes should have been automatic procedure is nonsense, like most of the other stuff the 9-11 Deniers say.

10 Comments:

At 21 January, 2007 08:56, Blogger MarkyX said...

Not to mention on Sept 28th, 2001, the FAA did make a rule change about planes going into restricted airspace. Before, the pilot was simply giving a warning and a fine. There was nothing about "shooting down a plane in restricted airspace" before 9/11

These people watch way too many movies to think the government has control of everything in such a flawless manner.

 
At 21 January, 2007 11:05, Blogger The Artistic Macrophage said...

We should nickname them "Tom Clancyists"

 
At 21 January, 2007 11:09, Blogger Alex said...

Not to shoot down your theory (pardon the pun), but isn't this one of the things the deniers were confusing about? You said that this order was on the books as of June 2001, and, if I remember correctly, the deniers claim that the rules were changed around this time to make them more restrictive. Obviously the allegation is that Bush changed the rules so the airforce would have an excuse for not shooting down the planes.

 
At 21 January, 2007 12:55, Blogger default.xbe said...

the rules change involved needing approval from the secdef for non-immediate threats, i could be mistaken but i think hijackings are considered immediate threats, so the rule change didnt even apply

and if it did apply, it means theyd have to get approval before not shooting down the plane? not sure how it would work, lol

 
At 21 January, 2007 13:12, Blogger MarkyX said...

Yep, the rule change was for non-immediate threat.

 
At 21 January, 2007 21:44, Blogger Murdervillage said...

Prior to flight 11 hitting the north tower, hijackings would have been considered a non-immediate threat: the assumption was that the planes would be landed eventually by their original pilots.

After the WTC attacks, when other planes were suspected hijacks, there were obviously imminent threats in the air. Identifying them was the problem. Had planes been available, and had the military given permission to pilots to shoot down any aircraft identified as suspect on 9/11, many airliners might have been shot down.

So, the military did have authority to shoot down flights 77 and 93, but using that authority is another thing entirely. Those flights first had to be positively identified.

 
At 22 January, 2007 13:34, Blogger Rob said...

alex: "if I remember correctly, the deniers claim that the rules were changed around [June 2001] to make them more restrictive. Obviously the allegation is that Bush changed the rules so the airforce would have an excuse for not shooting down the planes" Indeed they do claim that - as in this at Rigorous Intuition: "That the standing order which covered the shooting down of hijacked aircraft was altered on June 1, 2001, taking discretion away from field commanders and placing it solely in the hands of the Secretary of Defense, is simply poor planning and unfortunate timing."

The source given for this claim is a February 1997 document (text available here if original is unavailable), which is presumably supposed to be the standing orders which were altered to take discretion away from field commanders. It states - in February 1997 - that "The Secretary of Defense is the approval authority for any requests for potentially lethal support (i.e., lethal to the public, a member of law enforcement, or a Service member) made by law enforcement agencies." (my emphasis).

So whatever the rules were changed to in June 2001, the shooting down of hijacked aircraft had required the approval of the Secretary of Defense since at least early 1997.

I've just noticed this in the "Support for Domestic Counter-terrorism Operations" section of the same document:

"The employment of U.S. military forces in response to acts or threats of domestic terrorism may be requested only by the President (or in accordance with Presidential Decision Directives) and must be authorized by the President. All requests for assistance in responding to acts or threats of domestic terrorism must also be approved by the Secretary of Defense." (my emphasis).

Remember, according to the deniers these are the standing orders which allowed field commanders to decide to shoot down hijacked airliners.

 
At 22 January, 2007 15:36, Blogger Alex said...

awesome, thanks for the info, Rob.

 
At 23 January, 2007 08:05, Blogger Swing Dangler said...

"The employment of U.S. military forces in response to acts or threats of domestic terrorism may be requested only by the President (or in accordance with Presidential Decision Directives) and must be authorized by the President. All requests for assistance in responding to acts or threats of domestic terrorism must also be approved by the Secretary of Defense." (my emphasis).

So after the first plane hit, why weren't the other 3 shot down?

 
At 23 January, 2007 11:52, Blogger Rob said...

Swing, the point I was making is that the standing orders supposedly changed in June 2001 to take shoot-down discretion away from field commanders had never allowed anyone below the Secretary of Defense to make any such decision.

As for your quesion "So after the first plane hit, why weren't the other 3 shot down?", I suspect the answer is that they would have done if they could have, but that job isn't an easy one, especially when you have to avoid shooting down any non-hijacked planes. To begin with, you start the clock too early. It only becomes clear after the second plane hits that what is happening is an attack, and not some dreadful accident. After that an air defence service designed to look outwards for Soviet bombers has to look inwards for a couple of airliners among many legitimate aircraft.

 

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