WASHINGTON, June 17: The White House bypassed Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld in confusion during the Sept 2001 attack and directly ordered fighter jets to shoot down hijacked airliners used in the strikes , the commission studying the event said on Thursday.

No airliners were shot down, but the independent commission charged in a scathing report that US aviation and military officials responded clumsily to the devastating attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon.

Not only was Mr Rumsfeld bypassed in the normal chain of command for such a shoot-down order, but the command from Vice President Dick Cheney that the airliners be "taken out" did not reach the fighter planes until after the last ill-fated airliner had crashed in Pennsylvania, the special commission said.

Here is an excerpt from the conversation between Vice President Dick Cheney and Mr Rumsfeld:

Cheney: "There's been at least three instances here where we've had reports of aircraft approaching Washington - a couple were confirmed hijack. And, pursuant to the president's instructions, I gave authorization for them to be taken out. Hello?"

Rumsfeld: "Yes, I understand. Who did you give that direction to?"

Cheney: "It was passed from here through the operations centre at the White House, from the (shelter)."

Rumsfeld: "OK. Let me ask the question here. Has that directive been transmitted to the aircraft?"

Cheney: "Yes, it has."

Rumsfeld: "So we've got a couple of aircraft up there that have those instructions at the present time?"

Cheney: "That is correct. And it's my understanding they've already taken a couple of the aircraft (hijacked airliners) out."

Rumsfeld: "We can't confirm that. We're told that one aircraft is down, but we do not have a pilot report that they did it."

Mr Rumsfeld, who had earlier been outside the Pentagon helping in rescue efforts after one hijacked airliner smashed into the Pentagon, was referring to another airliner that crashed in a Pennsylvania field after the hijackers apparently lost control of the plane.

"He (Rumsfeld) told us he was just gaining situational awareness when he spoke with the vice president, and that his primary concern was ensuring that the pilots had a clear understanding of their rules of engagement," the report said. But it added that the White House shoot-down order was passed too late to Air Force fighter jets scrambled by the North American Aerospace Defence Command. -Reuters

Opinion

Editorial

The establishment pivot
18 Jan, 2022

The establishment pivot

It is a sad reality that the power matrix continues to revolve around the establishment.
18 Jan, 2022

Remittances growth

THE hefty growth in remittances from Pakistanis living abroad continues to defy forecasts to the contrary. New State...
18 Jan, 2022

China-Iran deal

THE China-Iran strategic deal that has recently taken effect is more than just a long-term bilateral agreement...
Security policy unveiled
Updated 17 Jan, 2022

Security policy unveiled

PAKISTAN’S freshly unveiled National Security Policy has broadened the traditional concept and included economic...
Bold decisions
Updated 17 Jan, 2022

Bold decisions

IT is a double blow within a matter of days. The Islamabad High Court’s order last week to demolish a navy golf...
17 Jan, 2022

Rohingya camp blaze

A HUGE blaze in a refugee camp housing members of the Rohingya community in Bangladesh last week has left up to ...