Who Is Captain Charles Leidig?

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8:30 a.m. September 11, 2001: Rookie in Command of the NMCC
Captain Charles Leidig, the deputy for Command Center operations at the NMCC, takes over temporarily from Brigadier General Montague Winfield and is effectively in charge of NMCC during the 9/11 crisis. Winfield had requested the previous day that Leidig stand in for him on September 11. Leidig had started his role as Deputy for Command Center Operations two months earlier and had qualified to stand in for Winfield just the previous month. Leidig remains in charge from a few minutes before the 9/11 crisis begins until about 10:30 a.m., after the last hijacked plane crashes. He presides over an important crisis response teleconference that has a very slow start, not even beginning until 9:39 a.m. [9/11 Commission, 6/17/2004 pdf file; 9/11 Commission, 6/17/2004]

(Shortly After 9:03 a.m.) September 11, 2001: NMCC Commander Concludes US is Under Attack, Yet Does Not Retake Charge of Center
Brigadier General Montague Winfield, commander of the National Military Command Center (NMCC), the Pentagon’s emergency response center, later says, “When the second aircraft flew into the second tower, it was at that point that we realized that the seemingly unrelated hijackings that the FAA was dealing with were in fact a part of a coordinated terrorist attack on the United States.” [ABC News, 9/14/2002] For unknown reasons, Winfield had stepped down from his usual position at 8:30 a.m., and allowed Captain Charles Leidig to temporarily take his place as deputy director for operations in the NMCC (see 8:30 a.m. September 11, 2001). [9/11 Commission, 6/17/2004 pdf file] Post 9/11 news reports will give the impression that Winfield remained in the NMCC throughout the course of the attacks, and was aware of the unfolding events. None of them will mention him ever having left the center. [CNN, 9/4/2002; ABC News, 9/11/2002] Yet, despite concluding that the US is suffering a “coordinated terrorist attack,” Winfield allows Leidig to continue as his stand-in, and does not take over from him and resume charge of the center until shortly after Flight 93 has crashed. This would presumably be around 10:15-10:30 a.m. [9/11 Commission, 6/17/2004]

(9:29 a.m.-9:37 a.m.) September 11, 2001: Pentagon Command Center Begins High Level Conference Call
Captain Charles Leidig is temporarily in command of the National Military Command Center (NMCC), “the military’s worldwide nerve center.” In response to the attacks on the World Trade Center, he convenes a conference call. [CNN, 9/4/2002; 9/11 Commission, 6/17/2004 pdf file] Telephone links are established between the NMCC located inside the Pentagon (but on the opposite side of the building from where the explosion will happen), Canada’s equivalent Command Center, Strategic Command, theater commanders, and federal emergency-response agencies. At one time or another, President Bush, Vice President Cheney, Defense Secretary Rumsfeld, key military officers, leaders of the FAA and NORAD, the White House, and Air Force One are heard on the open line. [Aviation Week and Space Technology, 6/3/2002; 9/11 Commission, 6/17/2004] NORAD command director Captain Michael Jellinek claims this call was initiated “at once” after the second WTC tower was hit. [Aviation Week and Space Technology, 6/3/2002] However, the 9/11 Commission concludes it starts at 9:29 a.m. According to the commission, it begins as an all-purpose “significant event” conference. But at 9:30, Leidig states that it has just been confirmed that Flight 11 is still airborne and is heading toward Washington, DC. (This incorrect information apparently arose minutes earlier during a conference call between FAA centers (see 9:21 a.m. September 11, 2001).) In response to this erroneous report, the significant event conference is ended at around 9:34. It then resumes at about 9:37 as an air threat conference call, which lasts for more than eight hours. [9/11 Commission, 6/17/2004; 9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 37] This is broadcast over a loudspeaker inside the NMCC. [US News and World Report, 8/31/2003] Brigadier General Montague Winfield, who later takes over from Leidig in charge of the NMCC, says, “All of the governmental agencies that were involved in any activity going on in the United States at that point, were in that conference.” [ABC News, 9/11/2002] The call continues right through the Pentagon explosion; the impact is not felt within the NMCC. [CNN, 9/4/2002] However, despite being in the Pentagon when it is hit, Defense Secretary Rumsfeld doesn’t enter the NMCC or participate in the call until 10:30 a.m. (see (10:30 a.m.) September 11, 2001).

9:39 a.m. September 11, 2001: Rumsfeld Is Wanted at Pentagon Teleconference but Cannot Be Reached
Captain Charles Leidig, a deputy who is temporarily in charge of the Pentagon’s National Military Command Center (NMCC), is handling the NMCC’s crisis teleconference. He opens the call saying, “An air attack against North America may be in progress.” He mentions reports of a crash into the opposite side of the Pentagon, and requests that Defense Secretary Rumsfeld be added to the conference. [9/11 Commission, 6/17/2004; 9/11 Commission, 6/17/2004 pdf file] Rumsfeld has a crucial role to play in coordinating the military response to an attack on the US. According to journalist and author Andrew Cockburn, since the Cold War, “In an age when an enemy attack might allow only a few minutes for detection and reaction, control of American military power became vested in the National Command Authority, which consists of the president and the secretary of defense. Collectively, the NCA is the ultimate source of military orders, uniquely empowered, among other things, to order the use of nuclear weapons. In time of war, therefore, Rumsfeld was effectively the president’s partner, the direct link to the fighting forces, and all orders had to go through him. Such orders were supposed to be transmitted from… the National Military Command Center.” Cockburn adds that the NMCC is “the operational center for any and every crisis, from nuclear war to hijacked airliners.” Yet, rather than join the NMCC conference, Rumsfeld has already gone out of the Pentagon to see the crash site, without telling any of his command staff where he was going, and remains out of contact for some time (see Between 9:38 a.m. and 10:00 a.m. September 11, 2001). Therefore, a few minutes after Leidig makes his request, Rumsfeld’s office will report back that he is nowhere to be found. Cockburn concludes, “The chain of command was broken.” [Cockburn, 2007, pp. 4-5; Democracy Now!, 3/7/2007] It is unknown whether Rumsfeld has a cell phone or pager on him, and if so, why he cannot be reached.

9:44 a.m. September 11, 2001: NMCC Conference Thinks Flight 1989, Not Flight 93, Is Fourth Hijack
NORAD briefs the NMCC teleconference on the possible hijacking of Delta Flight 1989. Four minutes later, a representative from the White House bunker containing Vice President Cheney asks if there are any indications of other hijacked planes. Captain Charles Leidig, temporarily in charge of the NMCC, mentions the Delta Flight and comments, “that would be the fourth possible hijack.” Flight 1989 is in the same general Ohio region as Flight 93, but NORAD doesn’t scramble fighters toward either plane at this time. [9/11 Commission, 6/17/2004]