July 2, 2008
The NORAD Papers II
In The NORAD Papers we learned from documents dating from the 1990s that NORAD had three core missions since its creation in 1958. These are:
a. surveillance and control of the airspace covering the United States and Canada;
b. providing the NCAs with tactical warning and attack assessment of an aerospace attack against North America; and
c. providing an appropriate response to any form of an air attack.
The last two missions constitute NORAD’s "outward" search for hostile aircraft approaching the North American continent. NORAD’s first mission, however, tasks the agency to monitor and control all aircraft within the United States’ and Canada’s air space. This is what NORAD calls "air sovereignty". Let’s take a closer look at what constitutes "air sovereignty".
As reported by the Government Accountability Office in 1994 (then called the General Accounting Office), "NORAD defines air sovereignty as providing surveillance and control of the territorial airspace, which includes:
1. intercepting and destroying uncontrollable air objects;
2. tracking hijacked aircraft;
3. assisting aircraft in distress;
4. escorting Communist civil aircraft; and
5. intercepting suspect aircraft, including counterdrug operations and peacetime military intercepts."1
The GAO report also addresses NORAD’s air sovereignty responsibilities ‘post’ USSR:
"…the force [NORAD] has refocused its activity on the air sovereignty mission, concentrating on intercepting drug smugglers. However, anti-drug smuggling activities at some units and alert sites have been minimal and at others almost nonexistent. Overall, during the past 4 years, NORAD's alert fighters took off to intercept aircraft (referred to as scrambled) 1,518 times, or an average of 15 times per site per year. Of these incidents, the number of suspected drug smuggling aircraft averaged one per site, or less than 7 percent of all of the alert sites' total activity. The remaining activity generally involved visually inspecting unidentified aircraft and assisting aircraft in distress."2
We learn from the GAO report that NORAD’s first core mission, surveillance and control of territorial airspace, consists mostly of "visually inspecting unidentified aircraft and assisting aircraft in distress"3 within the United States.
Several days after the 9/11 attacks, NORAD spokesman, Major Mike Snyder, for NORAD headquarters in Colorado Springs, Colorado confirmed the high number of NORAD interceptions:
"Snyder, the NORAD spokesman, said its fighters routinely intercept aircraft."4
To what ends would NORAD go in enforcing its charter to control United States airspace? Major Snyder explains what actions NORAD is mandated by law to perform in order to ensure control of United States air space when confronting a non-compliant pilot:
"When planes are intercepted, they typically are handled with a graduated response. The approaching fighter may rock its wingtips to attract the pilot's attention, or make a pass in front of the aircraft. Eventually, it can fire tracer rounds in the airplane's path, or, under certain circumstances, down it with a missile."5
In 1996 NORAD prepared and practiced "its charter through continuous training and a realistic exercise program. Probably the biggest of these exercises is Amalgam Warrior, which is held twice annually in the fall for the East Coast and in the spring for the West Coast. The five-day fall Amalgam Warrior put Americans and Canadians through their paces, challenging forces in three areas coinciding with the command's aerospace warning, AIR SOVEREIGNTY [emphasis mine] and air defense missions.
The exercise was conducted in real time with a fictitious world political scenario, which prompted NORAD forces to transition from a peacetime posture to a war-fighting stance. The threat escalated from TRACKING [emphasis mine] unknown aircraft, which filed bad flight plans or wandered off course, and in-flight emergencies [all four hijacked aircraft on 9/11 were also in-flight emergencies6] to TERRORIST AIRCRAFT ATTACKS [emphasis mine] and large-scale bomber strike mission."7
How important is the "air sovereignty" mission to the Air Force? Colonel Dan Navin, special assistant to the commander of 1st Air Force in 1997 speaks to this question when he commented,"…many say [it] is the most important job of the Air Force, and that is air sovereignty."8
As Commander-in-Chief, North American Aerospace Defense Command from August 1998 to February 2000, General Richard Myers9 would have known that NORAD’s mission included surveillance and control of the air space within the United States on 9/11.Therefore when the former commander of NORAD stated in testimony he gave before the 9/11 Commission pertaining to NORAD’s failure to anticipate the 9/11 attacks, "I can't answer the hypothetical. It's more - it's the way that we were directed to posture, looking outward" 10 he knowingly committed perjury. As such, the United States Department of Justice now has the duty to charge General Richard Myers with perjury and determine why he committed perjury.
Download the GAO report on NORAD, Continental Air Defense: A Dedicated Force Is No Longer Needed, at http://archive.gao.gov/t2pbat3/151250.pdf.
7. http://web.archive.org/web/19970407010917/http://www.af.mil/news/airman/0196/border.htm (The Border Guards, NORAD: The Eyes and Ears of North America was written before 1997 as determined by the interview in the article with NORAD’s commander-in-chief Gen. Joseph W. Ashy. On October 1, 1996 Gen. Joseph W. Ashy retired from the United States Air Force, hence The Border Guards, NORAD: The Eyes and Ears of North America was written before 1997.).