- The Washington Times - Friday, September 14, 2001

Pentagon attacked
Some observations on the first attack on the Pentagon since its rings and corridors rose on the shores of the Potomac in 1943 to house the people executing World War II.
The American Airlines 757 slammed into the Pentagon's fourth corridor shortly after workers had finished a major reconstruction of that section and Army and Navy officers had moved into new gleaming offices.
The impact wiped out the Navy's new global command center, killing a number of officers inside. No admiral is believed to have died in the terrorist attack.
"They still have not found the Navy Command Center," one source said. Everyone inside the center at the time remains missing.
An officer in the area recounted what he saw: "The aircraft impacted the Pentagon at the base of the fourth corridor. … This is the newly renovated wing of the Pentagon. … The entire fourth corridor end of the E wing [outermost hall] collapsed about 10:45. I watched the building go down. I'll never forget seeing the American flag wave from a ceremonial stand on the edge of the gaping hole that used to be one of the E-ring offices."
The brunt of the attack hit the second floor, an area packed with Army offices, including those of Lt. Gen. Timothy Maude, deputy chief of staff for personnel. He is the highest ranking officer to die in hostile fire since World War II, according to Army sources.
Pentagon officials made other observations to us about the attack on the nerve center and symbol of American military might.
In the past year, several people were detained by Pentagon security guards because they were systematically taking photographs of the world's largest government office building.
Also, as the Pentagon planned the ongoing renovations of the 58-year-old structure, some security-minded officials broached the idea of moving senior people, such as the defense secretary and the Joint Chiefs of Staff chairman, away from the now-vulnerable E ring and put them closer to the inside courtyard. The idea didn't go very far then. "The big boys didn't want to give up their window offices," said one source.
As the Pentagon re-examines security measures, the idea of moving senior people inward is being talked about again. But don't look for Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld to go along with the idea. He doesn't want to make any changes that may appear as cowering to terrorists.
Amid the chaos, the Marine Corps showed its mobility by quickly repositioning its top offices, including Commandant James Jones', to the Corps old headquarters: the Navy Annex a few hundred yards away adjacent to Arlington National Cemetery.
The Corps and the Navy also quickly agreed on a toll-free number for family members to check on the status of naval personnel. "While there is always grist for conflict when budgets are tight, the Navy-Marine Corps team is alive and well," said one officer.
This officer also commented: "After Beirut and the World Trade Center van bombing, America reacted but then quickly did what we always do, go back to normalcy. Years have gone by, seeming to vindicate normalcy while our federal and local civil security agencies worked behind the scenes. It will never go back to that normalcy."
The sneak attack took its toll among retired as well as active-duty military personnel. The crashed airliner's pilot of record was Chick Burlingame, a retired Navy fighter pilot. Passengers included retired Rear Adm. Bud Flagg, and his wife, Dee.
Mr. Rumsfeld wants the Pentagon's 20,000-plus civilian and military workers to keep the building humming. And that means personnel continue work on the Quadrennial Defense Review (QDR), which is due to Congress, by law, on Sept. 30. Mr. Rumsfeld's staff has written the first draft, and submitted it to the Joint Chiefs of Staff. The chiefs recommended changes, and a second draft is now being written by the secretary's aides.

Russia cancels exercise
Russia's Defense Ministry canceled a strategic nuclear bomber exercise set for this week after the U.S. government requested it be stopped because of the terrorist attack on the Pentagon.
The maneuvers were to include Russian strategic bombers and practice missile attacks on targets in the northern Pacific. U.S. intelligence officials said the bombers, including Tu-160 Blackjacks and Tu-95 Bear Hs and Tu-22 medium-range maritime bombers, also were expected to probe northern U.S. air defense networks.
"We don't think it's a good idea having strategic aircraft coming to our borders right now," said a senior Pentagon official. "We want to make sure there are no incidents."
Additional Blackjacks were spotted at a northern Russian base at Anadyr. U.S. and Canadian interceptor aircraft were moved to Alaska and northern Canada.
U.S. military forces are on a heightened state of security alert as a result of the attacks Tuesday on the Pentagon and World Trade Center in New York.

Bin Laden attack plan
Rep. Curt Weldon, Pennsylvania Republican, said yesterday that a House investigation is under way into why a military plan to attack Osama bin Laden last year was never carried out.
The U.S. Special Operations Command drew up the plan that recommended military operations against "five key nodes" of the infrastructure belonging to bin Laden's terrorist network, Mr. Weldon said in an interview.
Mr. Weldon said that if the raid had been carried out it might have prevented bin Laden from orchestrating attacks on the World Trade Center and Pentagon.
Deputy CIA Director John McLaughlin ducked questions about the military plan during a briefing with members of Congress on Wednesday, saying other administration decision makers nixed the plan.
Former National Security Advisor Samuel R. Berger told the Associated Press that "there was never a recommendation from the Pentagon" to go ahead with the attack.

Bin Laden's global cells
The Congressional Research Service released a report Monday on terrorism, revealing that Osama bin Laden has established a worldwide network of terrorist cells.
The report said bin Laden has about $300 million that is used to fund a shadowy network of some 3,000 Islamic extremists. His group, al-Qaida, is known or suspected of having cells in 27 nations, including the United States. The report said other locations include Afghanistan, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Yemen, Jordan, Egypt, Libya, Lebanon, Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda, Ethiopia and other parts of Africa, Malaysia, Philippines, Uruguay, Ecuador, Bosnia, Kosovo, Albania, United Kingdom and Canada.

Bill Gertz and Rowan Scarborough are Pentagon reporters. Mr. Gertz can be reached at 202/636-3274 or by e-mail at bgertz@washingtontimes.com. Mr. Scarborough can be reached at 202/636-3208 or by e-mail at rscarborough@washingtontimes.com.

Sign up for Daily Newsletters

Manage Newsletters

Copyright © 2020 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.

Please read our comment policy before commenting.


Click to Read More and View Comments

Click to Hide