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Within the headquarters of the National Security Agency (NSA) in Fort Meade, Maryland is a little-known unit called the Defense Special Missile and Astronautics Center (DEFSMAC). According to author James Bamford, who is an expert on the NSA, the centers purpose is to serve as the nations chief warning bell for a planned attack on America. It serves as the focal point for all-source intelligencelistening posts, early-warning satellites, human agents, and seismic detectors. According to one former NSA official, DEFSMAC has all the inputs from all the assets, and is a warning activity. They probably have a better feel for any worldwide threat to this country from missiles, aircraft, or overt military activities, better and more timely, at instant fingertip availability, than any group in the United States. If they received indications that an attack was imminent, DEFSMAC officials could immediately send out near-real-time and in-depth, all-source intelligence alerts to almost two hundred customers, including the White House Situation Room, the National Military Command Center at the Pentagon, the [Defense Intelligence Agency] Alert Center, and listening posts around the world. Its analysts could be closely monitoring all intercepts flooding in; examining the latest overhead photography; and analyzing data from early-warning satellites 22,300 miles above the equator. DEFSMAC would then flash the intelligence to the US Strategic Command at Offutt Air Force Base in Nebraska, NORAD at Cheyenne Mountain in Colorado, and other emergency command centers. But on this morning, as Bamford concludes, DEFSMAC learned of the massive airborne attacks after the factnot from Americas multibillion-dollar spy satellites or its worldwide network of advanced listening posts, or its army of human spies, but from a dusty, off-the-shelf TV set. [Bamford, 2004, pp. 33-35] The NSA had in fact intercepted numerous calls between some of the hijackers in the US and an al-Qaeda communications hub in Yemen, beginning in early 2000 and ending just weeks before 9/11 (see Early 2000-Summer 2001). [MSNBC, 7/21/2004] It also intercepted two messages in Arabic on September 10, stating, The match is about to begin, and Tomorrow is zero hour, but these are supposedly not translated until September 12 (see September 10, 2001). [Washington Post, 6/20/2002] The NSA even intercepted a series of communications between 9/11 mastermind Khalid Shaikh Mohammed (KSM) and lead 9/11 hijacker Mohamed Atta beginning in the summer of 2001 (see Summer 2001), continuing to a message where KSM gives Atta the final go-ahead for the attacks on September 10, 2001 (see September 10, 2001). Michael Hayden, the director of the NSA, will later claim that the NSA had no [indications] that al-Qaeda was specifically targeting New York and Washington or even that it was planning an attack on US soil (see October 17, 2002). [National Journal, 6/19/2006]

Staff at Fort Monmouth, an Army base in New Jersey located about 50 miles south of New York City, is preparing to hold a disaster drill to test emergency response capabilities to a fake chemical attack. The exercise, called Timely Alert II, is to involve various law enforcement agencies and emergency personnel, including Fort Monmouth firefighters and members of the New Jersey State Police. Personnel are to be deployed and measures taken as in a real emergency. A notice has been sent out, warning that anyone not conducting official business will be turned away from Fort Monmouth during the exercise. Soon after 9 a.m., the exercise director tells a group of participating volunteers that a hijacked plane has crashed into the World Trade Center. The participants pretend to be upset, believing this is just part of the simulation. When they see the live televised footage of the WTC attacks, some people at the base think it is an elaborate training video to accompany the exercise. One worker tells a fire department training officer: You really outdid yourself this time. Interestingly, the follow-up exercise held in July 2002 (Timely Alert III) does incorporate simulated television news reports to give participants the impression that the emergency is real. And in the first Timely Alert exercise, held on the base in January 2001, a call had come through of a supposed real bomb situation, but this fortunately turned out to be a report related to a training aid being used during the exercise. On 9/11, Fort Monmouth is geared to go into high-alert status as part of Timely Alert II. The exercise is called off once the base is alerted to the real attacks. [Monmouth Message, 2/9/2001; Hub, 9/21/2001; Monmouth Message, 9/21/2001; Asbury Park Press, 7/24/2002; Monmouth Message, 8/23/2002; US Department of the Army, 7/26/2003; Monmouth Message, 9/12/2003] Fort Monmouth is home to various Army, Defense Department, and other government agencies. The largest of these is the US Armys Communications-Electronics Command (CECOM). CECOM serves to develop, acquire, field, and sustain superior information technologies and integrated systems for Americas warfighters. It is tasked with the critical role of command, control, communications, computers, intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance (C4ISR). [GlobalSecurity (.org), 10/21/2001; Communications-Electronics Command, 4/17/2002; US Department of the Army, 1/2003 pdf file] Fort Monmouth services also directly assist in the emergency response later in the day. Its fire department deploys to Atlantic Highlands to assist passengers coming from Manhattan by ferry, and members of its Patterson Army Health Clinic are also sent out to help. Teams of CECOM experts from the base are later deployed to ground zero in New York with equipment capable of locating cellular phone transmissions within the ruins of the collapsed World Trade Center. Its explosive ordnance company is also deployed to assist authorities should they come across anything they think might be explosives, while digging through the debris in search of victims. [Hub, 9/21/2001; Monmouth Message, 9/21/2001]

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Timely Alert II

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