July 30, 2017
by Kevin Ryan

In 2004, U.S. Air Force General Richard Myers responded to a pointed question on the subject of military exercises, or war games, practiced prior to September 11th 2001. Myers reported that the North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD) had practiced “five exercise hijack events” between November 1999 and October 2000, all of which “included a suicide crash into a high value target.” Records released since that time show that NORAD had practiced 28 hijack exercise events in the 20 months leading up to 9/11. At least six of these were focused on hijackings located entirely within the Unites States, putting to rest the excuse that NORAD was only looking for threats coming from outside of U.S. borders.

One of these exercises, Vigilant Guardian in October 2000, practiced the interception of an airliner hijacked for a suicide attack against the 39-story United Nations building in New York City, just a few blocks from the World Trade Center. Another air defense exercise, called Amalgam Virgo and practiced just three months before 9/11, was accompanied by a planning document that had a picture of Osama bin Laden on the cover.

Many of the war games that were occurring on the day of 9/11 were under the sponsorship of Ralph Eberhart, commander in chief (CINC) of NORAD. Eberhart was in command of the war games that had the greatest impact on the nation’s air defenses and has therefore been named as a suspect in the crimes. Of course, he had help.

NORAD is divided into several large areas that cover the U.S. and Canada, one of which is the region of the continental U.S. called CONR, headed on 9/11 by General Larry Arnold. Within CONR there are three sectors. The 9/11 attacks took place in the airspace monitored by CONR’s Northeast Air Defense Sector (NEADS). Personnel at NEADS were therefore primarily responsible for trying to coordinate the NORAD response to the hijackings.

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