Who Is General Ralph Eberhart?

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(8.46 a.m.) September 11, 2001: NORAD Operations Center Receives First Notification of Hijacking
Immediately after ordering the scrambling of fighters after Flight 11, NEADS calls Canadian Captain Mike Jellinek at NORAD’s operations center in Cheyenne Mountain, Colorado. It informs him that the FAA is reporting a hijacking and requesting NORAD support, and asks for NORAD commander-in-chief approval for the scramble. [Toronto Star, 12/9/2001; Aviation Week and Space Technology, 6/3/2002] The Cheyenne Mountain operations center “provides warning of ballistic missile or air attacks against North America.” [North American Aerospace Defense Command, 11/27/1999] Its role is to “fuse every critical piece of information NORAD has into a concise and crystalline snapshot,” and the mandate of its staff is “to respond to any threat in the skies over Canada and the United States.” [Toronto Star, 12/9/2001; Ottawa Citizen, 9/11/2002] This is apparently the first time it becomes aware of the morning’s emergency. Mike Jellinek is sitting near Canadian Major General Rick Findley, NORAD’s director of combat operations, who has just completed the night shift. Findley’s staff is “already on high alert” because of Vigilant Guardian and Operation Northern Vigilance, a training exercise and a NORAD operation that are currently in progress. Jellinek gets the thumbs up approval from Findley for the sending of fighters after Flight 11. Findley later states, “At that point all we thought was we’ve got an airplane hijacked and we were going to provide an escort as requested. We certainly didn’t know it was going to play out as it did.” [Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, 11/27/2001; Toronto Star, 12/9/2001; Aviation Week and Space Technology, 6/3/2002; Ottawa Citizen, 9/11/2002; Canadian Press, 9/10/2006] Findley remains in charge of the NORAD operations center. His staff feeds information to NORAD Commander-in-Chief Ralph Eberhart, and Findley himself in phone contact with Eberhart several times during the crisis. Eberhart is in his office at NORAD headquarters, at nearby Peterson Air Force Base, but will relocate to Cheyenne Mountain later in the morning (see (Between 9:35 a.m. and 10:35 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [Calgary Herald, 10/1/2001; 9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 465; Legion Magazine, 11/2004]

(After 8:48 a.m.) September 11, 2001: Joint Chiefs of Staff Vice Chairman Still Oblivious? Accounts Are Contradictory
Air Force General Richard Myers, Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and acting Chairman on 9/11. Air Force General Richard Myers, Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and acting Chairman on 9/11. [Source: NORAD]Air Force General Richard Myers, Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, sees reports of the first WTC crash on television. Myers is acting Chairman of the US military during the 9/11 crisis because Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Army General Henry Shelton is flying in a plane across the Atlantic. [ABC News, 9/11/2002] Myers sees the television in an outer office of Senator Max Cleland (D), but he says, “They thought it was a small plane or something like that,” so he goes ahead and meets with Cleland. He says, “Nobody informed us” about the second WTC crash, and he remains oblivious to the emergency until the meeting with Cleland ends, and as the Pentagon explosion takes place at 9:37 a.m. Then Myers speaks to General Ralph Eberhart. [American Forces Press Service, 10/23/2001] Yet, in testimony on September 13, 2001, he states, “after the second tower was hit, I spoke to the commander of NORAD, General Eberhart. And at that point, I think the decision was at that point to start launching aircraft.” [US Congress, 9/13/2001] NORAD claims the first fighters are scrambled even before the first WTC hit. [North American Aerospace Defense Command, 9/18/2001] In his 2004 testimony before the 9/11 Commission, Myers’ account changes again. He says that he gets a call from Eberhart, and then “shortly thereafter that the Pentagon was hit as we were on our way back to the Pentagon.” [9/11 Commission, 6/17/2004] Myers’ claim that he is out of the loop contradicts not only his previous account but also counterterrorism “tsar” Richard Clarke’s account of what Myers does that day. According to Clarke’s recollection, Myers takes part in a video conference from about 9:10 a.m. until after 10:00 a.m. (see (9:10 a.m.) September 11, 2001). If Myers is not involved in this conference, then his whereabouts and actions remain unknown until he arrives at the NMCC around 10:30 a.m. (see (Before 10:30 a.m.)).

(Between 9:35 a.m. and 10:35 a.m.) September 11, 2001: NORAD Commander Spends 45 Minutes Driving to Operations Center
In the middle of the 9/11 attacks, General Ralph Eberhart, the commander of NORAD, drives from his NORAD headquarters office at Peterson Air Force Base, Colorado to the NORAD operations center in Cheyenne Mountain, about a dozen miles away. The journey reportedly takes him 45 minutes and en route he loses a cell phone call with Vice President Cheney. The reason he makes this journey is unknown, though it is reported that there are superior communications capabilities available at Cheyenne Mountain. [Gazette (Colorado Springs), 6/16/2006; Denver Post, 7/28/2006; Washington Post, 7/29/2006] The exact times when Eberhart departs Peterson AFB and arrives at Cheyenne Mountain are unclear. General Richard Myers says that Eberhart phones him from Peterson either just before or just after the Pentagon is hit, which suggests that Eberhart heads out some time between 9:35 a.m. and 9:40 a.m. [Armed Forces Radio And Television Service, 10/17/2001; 9/11 Commission, 6/17/2004] Eberhart tells the 9/11 Commission that when he arrives at the NORAD operations center, the order to shoot down hijacked aircraft has already been passed down NORAD’s chain of command. According to the commission’s timeline, this would indicate he arrives after 10:31 a.m. (see 10:31 a.m. September 11, 2001). [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 42] Yet other reports state that the massive blast doors to Cheyenne Mountain are shut at around 10:15 a.m. (see 10:15 a.m. September 11, 2001), which suggests that Eberhart arrives earlier.

9:49 a.m. September 11, 2001: Fighters Ordered to Scramble Nationwide
In the words of the 9/11 Commission, the commander of NORAD (General Ralph Eberhart) directs “all air sovereignty aircraft to battle stations fully armed.” [9/11 Commission, 6/17/2004] Apparently, this means all fighters with air defense missions are to be armed and ready to scramble. This may be connected to counterterrorism “tsar” Richard Clarke’s claim that after the Pentagon is hit, he orders an aide, “Find out where the fighter planes are. I want Combat Air Patrol over every major city in this country. Now!” (see (Between 9:37-9:45 a.m.) September 11, 2001) Another account says calls to bases to scramble don’t begin until about 10:01 a.m. (see 10:01 a.m. September 11, 2001). [Toledo Blade, 12/9/2001] It has not been explained why this order wasn’t given much earlier. Calls from Air Force bases across the country offering to help had started “pouring into NORAD” shortly after 9:03 a.m. (see (After 9:03 a.m.) September 11, 2001), when televised reports made an emergency situation clear. [Aviation Week and Space Technology, 6/3/2002] With a couple of exceptions, other fighters do not actually start taking off until about 11:00 a.m.

(11:00 a.m.) September 11, 2001: NORAD Implements Cold-War Era Plan to Clear Skies
At the NORAD operations center in Cheyenne Mountain, Colorado, NORAD Commander-in-Chief Ralph Eberhart orders a limited version of a little known plan to clear the skies and give the military control over US airspace. [Aviation Week and Space Technology, 6/3/2002; 9/11 Commission, 6/17/2004] The plan, Security Control of Air Traffic and Navigation Aids (SCATANA), was developed in the 1960s as a way to clear airspace above the US and off the US coast in the event of a confirmed warning of a nuclear attack by the Soviet Union. Once it is activated a wartime air traffic priority list is established, allowing essential aircraft and personnel to use the airspace. Among others, this list includes the US president, essential national security staff, aircraft involved in continental defense missions, and airborne command posts. [Schwartz, 1998] Eberhart and his staff suggest implementing the limited version of SCATANA over the air threat conference call. Transportation Secretary Norman Mineta immediately concurs. [Aviation Week and Space Technology, 6/3/2002; Filson, 2004, pp. 73] Unlike a full SCATANA, this modified version allows ground navigation aids to stay on, for the benefit of aircraft that are still airborne. Under the plan, for about the next three days all flights other than military, law enforcement, fire fighters, and medevac, will require approval from the national Defense Dept./FAA Air Traffic Services Cell (ATSC), located within the FAA’s Herndon Command Center. [Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, 11/2001; Aviation Week and Space Technology, 6/10/2002; 9/11 Commission, 6/17/2004] The SCATANA order is issued over an hour after the FAA ordered all planes down (see (9:45 a.m.) September 11, 2001), and after at least three-quarters of them have already landed. [USA Today, 8/13/2002] Eberhart says the delay is due to safety concerns, because NORAD would have been unable to control US airspace—with over four thousand planes airborne at the time of the attacks—with its radar capabilities. [9/11 Commission, 6/17/2004] Defense Week magazine suggests SCATANA is not implemented until even later, at around 2 p.m. It says NORAD issues a “notice to airmen” implementing the modified version of SCATANA about five hours after Flight 11 hit the WTC. [Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, 11/2001]