Thursday, June 17, 2004

Who Writes This Stuff?

A CBC headline claims that " 'Improvised defence' cost lives on Sept. 11: report"

I haven't read the report in detail, but nowhere, anywhere, in the CBC news story or any other story I've seen, does it say anything like that. As I skimmed today's releases from the 9/11 commission, the criticism was aimed at the FCC for not alerting the "defence" forces sooner. By the time the fighter jets scrambled, everything that was going to hit its target had already done so.

Improvised defense, yes. But how did it cost lives? Which lives? The only hijacked plane that had a chance in hell of being intercepted was Flight 93, the one that went down in western Pennsylvania. And those lives were all lost either way. Thanks to the heroics of the passengers, no one who wasn't on that plane died in its fall.

If the passengers had not done what they did, it's likely that that plane would have taken out the Capitol (or possibly the White House). The New York Times story makes this explicit:

Had Flight 93 not crashed in Pennsylvania, it would have arrived in the Washington area 10 to 20 minutes later, the staff report said.

"There was only one set of fighters orbiting Washington, D.C., during this time frame," the report said, referring to a pair of F-16's from Langley Air Force Base in Virginia. "They were armed and under Norad's control."

But they had not been told that they were authorized to shoot down an aircraft, contrary to what Vice President Dick Cheney thought at that time. In fact, the report noted, "the Langley pilots were never briefed about the reason they were scrambled" and did not know that the vice president had ordered that a Washington-bound hijacked jet be shot down.