WSJ: News to Them
WASHINGTON --Shortly after a passenger jet crashed into the Pentagon on Sept. 11, 2001, Air Force Gen. Richard Myers raced back to the military headquarters from a meeting on Capitol Hill. The four-star general, acting head of the Joint Chiefs of Staff that day, went directly to the Pentagon's command center. With smoke spreading into the cavernous room, he ordered the officer in charge, Maj. Gen. W. Montague Winfield, to raise the military's alert status to Defcon III, the highest state of readiness since the 1973 Arab-Israeli war.On top of things as usual.
That account is based on interviews with Gen. Winfield and a former White House official. In the months after Sept. 11, President Bush had a different public explanation about who put the military on high alert. The president said publicly at least twice that he gave the order. During a town-hall meeting in Orlando on Dec. 4, 2001, Mr. Bush said that after the attacks, 'one of the first acts I did was to put our military on alert.'
As that suggests, despite intense attention paid to Sept. 11, public understanding of that day -- how government officials responded, what went smoothly and what didn't -- remains shrouded in confusion and misunderstanding. The independent commission appointed to study the terror strikes has said it considers piecing together a minute-by-minute picture of that day's events crucial to its task of deciding whether the country needs to take further steps to prepare for potential future crises.