9/11 Shoot-Down Orders, The FAA, And 20/20 Hindsight

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Today, the 12th and final public hearing of the National Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon the United States (known as the 9-11 Commission) will examine the immediate response to the attacks by the FAA and the North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD). One focus of the hearing is expected to be how the decision was made to scramble fighter jets and whether to empower those jets to shoot down the hijacked airliners. An early version of a report to be made public today, according to The New York Times, says a better response from NORAD might have enabled the fighter jets to reach one airliner and shoot it down before it hit the Pentagon. The FAA's response on 9/11 also is harshly criticized, the Times said. "The Commission has to ask some important questions about that day," Commission Vice Chair Lee H. Hamilton said in a statement this week. "What was federal government protocol ... How is the federal government now prepared to respond, in the event of future attacks?" Addressing the panel from the FAA will be Monte Belger, former acting deputy administrator; Jeff Griffith, former deputy director, air traffic control; John White, former facility manager, Air Traffic Control Systems Command Center; and Benedict Sliney, operations manager, New York Terminal Radar Approach Control. Also scheduled to appear are Gen. Ralph E. Eberhart, USAF Commander, NORAD; and U.S. Northern Command Maj. Gen. Larry Arnold, USAF (Ret.), former Commander, Continental United States NORAD Region. The hearing will be held in the NTSB Conference Center in Washington, D.C.