Vice President Cheney did not issue orders to shoot down hostile aircraft on Sept. 11, 2001, until long after the last hijacked airliner had already crashed, and the order was never passed along to military fighter pilots searching for errant aircraft that morning, according to a new report issued Thursday by the panel investigating the attacks. A painstaking recreation of the faltering and confused response by military and aviation officials on Sept. 11 also shows that fighter jets never had a chance to intercept any of the doomed airliners, in part because they had been sent to intercept a plane, American Airlines 11, that had already crashed into the World Trade Center, reports the Washington Post.
The jets also would probably not have been able to stop the last airplane, United Airlines Flight 93, from barreling into the White House or U.S. Capitol if it had not crashed in Pennsylvania, according to the report. Among the new information is a detailed reconstruction of the reactions of President Bush, Cheney and other top government leaders that morning, including a recitation of a call between the two at 9: 45 a.m. after the Pentagon had been hit. “Sounds like we have a minor war going on here,” Bush tells Cheney, according to notes of the call. “I heard about the Pentagon. We’re at war. . . . Somebody’s going to pay.” The report also documents a succession of mistakes, wrong assumptions and puzzling errors made on the morning of Sept. 11 by air defense and aviation employees.