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Tue, Sep 12, 2006

NORAD Commander Says Agency Fought To Adapt On 9/11

Nuclear Deterrent Suddenly Had To Fight New Enemy

The events of September 11, 2001 represented a fundamental shift in America's approach to defending against its enemies... because the enemies themselves had changed. Nowhere was this more apparent than the headquarters for the North American Aerospace Defense Command, under Colorado's Cheyenne Mountain... as officers and strategists tasked with defending the US from nuclear bombs, suddenly found themselves combating religious fundamentalists armed with boxcutters.

Lieutenant General Rick Findley -- head of combat operations at NORAD that fateful day -- said recently there was no plan in place... no checklist they could refer to, that would tell NORAD how to combat this new threat. In fact... the only benefit NORAD had, was it was already on alert on 9/11 due to Russian bomber wargames that day, as well as an ongoing fall military exercise.

"Anybody that was anybody was stood up," Findley told the Canadian Press. "And because 9-11 occurred that morning, it was in the middle of a shift change, so literally both shifts were there at the same time."

While Findley disputes an article in Vanity Fair magazine that implies a sense of chaos at NORAD that day, he does not deny the agency had a difficult time adapting to the new threat. At one point, the agency had targeted as many as two dozen potential threat aircraft that didn't respond to initial requests for identification -- relying on information (much of it later determined to be flawed) from civilian agencies such as the FAA.

"You're talking about a big group of individuals that were being recorded for a very short period of time," he said. "There were a lot of other folks doing tremendous work. You're only getting a snippet of the information or the idea of what was really going on that day."

Now deputy commander-in-chief at NORAD, Findley says the agency was never intended to protect against such a threat... but those working the Mountain that day did the best they could.

"Our mission was entirely different," Findley said. "The way we looked for air traffic, the way we looked for threats to North America was very much looking out from North America."

Their efforts resulted in neither success nor failure, Findley says... only that NORAD struggled to adapt to a rapidly changing situation, as quickly as possible.

FMI: www.norad.mil

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