Richard Myers Questioned About NORAD's Mission By 9/11 Commissioner Jamie Gorelick

Commissioner Gorelick.

VOICE FROM AUDIENCE: Ask about the war games that were planned for 9-11.

MR. KEAN: Commissioner Gorelick.


VOICE FROM AUDIENCE: Tell us about the 9-11 war games.

MS. GORELICK: Could you please be quiet, we only have a few minutes with General Myers, and I would like to ask a question.

VOICE FROM AUDIENCE: Tell us about the war games.

MS. GORELICK: I'm sorry.

MR. KEAN: I would ask please for the people in the audience to be quiet if you want to stay here.

MS. GORELICK: General Myers, if you listened to the Staff Statement this morning, I think that the question that has to be on the minds of the American people is, where was our military when it should have been defending us, and I think that is a fair question from a layman's point of view. And the response of NORAD, which you used to command, and which General Eberhart now commands, is that NORAD was not postured to defend us domestically unless someone was coming at us from abroad, and that has lots of implications. It has implications for where our fighters were to dispatch, how much we cared about the internal radars which didn't function particularly well, which you were, at NORAD, dependent on. It had implications for whether you can communicate with your fighter pilots when they're up in the air in the interior of the country. It has implications for how you quickly get authorities to the pilots. And so I want to explore very briefly this question with you, because for years the Department of Defense did, in fact, resist having a domestic mission. And, with all due respect, said this was a law enforcement function, we do not have a domestic role. It was very uncomfortable with that role, and I think it's important to address that. That's why I come back to this word posture, we were postured against an external threat.

In my experience, the military is very clear about its charters, and who is supposed to do what. So if you go back and you look at the foundational documents for NORAD, they do not say defend us only against a threat coming in from across the ocean, or across our borders. It has two missions, and one of them is control of the airspace above the domestic United States, and aerospace control is defined as providing surveillance and control of the airspace of Canada and the United States. To me that air sovereignty concept means that you have a role which, if you were postured only externally you defined out of the job.

So I have two questions for you, by what process was it decided to only posture us against a foreign threat, if you will? And two, if you look at the threats that were postulated to the military in the 1996 Olympics of a domestic hijacking, flying a plane into one of the stadiums in Atlanta, the 1998 PDB about an aircraft loaded with explosives, the kind of exercise that we did around the NATO 50th anniversary, the Genoa G8, the threats the Secretary Lehman is talking about. I would like to know, as the second question, is it your job, and if not whose job is it, to make current assessments of a threat, and decide whether you are positioned correctly to carry out a mission, which at least on paper NORAD had. And I apologize for the length of the question, but it is of some complexity, and also important.

GEN. MYERS: Right. A couple of comments, Ms. Gorelick. First, I don't know that the military has ever resisted, I mean, those are your words. What we try to do is follow the law, and the law is pretty clear on Posse Comitatus and that is whether or not the military should be involved in domestic law enforcement. As you know, the president can waive that, and the state's National Guard can be used by the governor under Title 32 to participate in that, and that's all very important. It's still being debated today, and my view on that has kind of changed a little bit from prior to 9/11 to today. And that's still a debate, and you can help with that debate.

MS. GORELICK: Let me just interrupt, when I was general counsel of the Defense Department, I repeatedly advised, and I believe others have advised that the Posse Comitatus says, you can't arrest people. It doesn't mean that the military has no authority, obligation, or ability to defend the United States from attacks that happen to happen in the domestic United States. And we will help you with that, if there's any lack of clarity on that yet today.

GEN. MYERS: We'll leave that to the lawyers, because my view is, I don't know if there's lack of clarity, but there's probably a plethora of opinions on it. In terms of the '96 Olympics, as far as I know there was no air threat postulated. I do know the FAA instituted some temporary flight restrictions, but they were so small they could not have prevented an aircraft from entering and crashing into a venue. But, it was more done to just de-conflict the air traffic over these venues so it did not congest there. But, certainly our job today in the military, and my job, is to look at the current threat assessment, and now that we have an organization such as Northern Command to do the same, to look at how we can better defend this country against threats that are not traditional.

Again, at the time terrorism was viewed as a criminal act. And we have changed that, I think, in our government, and view it a little more broadly now, which I personally think is absolutely right. But, that view has persisted for over 10 years, as I read back through all the policy documents. So certainly our job today is to look at the threat assessment and figure out how we in the military can help protect this country, and this is something that I spend a lot of time on, I know that General Eberhart does, and we're looking at ways that are beyond -- if we need legislation, if we need policy change, we are looking at ways to do that, because we think that's our responsibility, clearly.

Did I answer both questions?

MS. GORELICK: Yes, and no, and my time has expired.

GEN. MYERS: Mr. Chairman, I really need to -- I apologize, but I really need to get to the next venue up in New York.

MR. KEAN: We understand that.

GEN. MYERS: Thank you, Governor.

MR. KEAN: Thank you.