September 10, 2008

The NORAD Papers IV

How NORAD Radar Operators Identified Aircraft Flying Over American Airspace on 9/11


In the official 9/11 narrative NORAD is always on the receiving side when it comes to learning about suspect aircraft flying through the skies on the morning of September 11, 2001. This is because the official narrative of 9/11 has NORAD directed, as General Richard Myers told the 9/11 Commission, "looking outward"1 for threats to the continent, not inwards. Since NORAD didn’t monitor air activity within the United States and Canada on September 11, 2001,2 how could it be the first to initiate calls to Air Traffic Control (ATC) on suspect aircraft?

This account of NORAD’s monitoring capabilities on 9/11 is, of course, part of the official narrative of 9/11. The factual narrative on this subject has NORAD with much greater monitoring capabilities than admitted to by the government. With greater capabilities to monitor the skies, we will see that NORAD radar operators were not mere passive recipients of ATC information on September 11, 2001, but active partners in initiating communication with their civilian counterparts.

In previous supplements of The NORAD Papers we learned that the official narrative of NORAD’s capabilities on 9/11 was incomplete. Not only was NORAD tasked to monitor the aerial approaches to the United States and Canada on 9/11, but the defense organization was also mandated to provide "surveillance and control of the territorial airspace"3 (what NORAD calls "Air Sovereignty") above the United States and Canada. In point of fact, NORAD’s mission to provide "surveillance and control of the territorial airspace" above both signatory nations is actually NORAD’s first mission of three, the other two missions being providing "the NCAs [National Command Authorities] with tactical warning and attack assessment of an aerospace attack against North America"; and "[providing] an appropriate response to any form of an air attack."4

As pointed out in 1998 by Major Francois Malo of Canada’s Department of National Defense, Canada that year had finally caught up with the United States in its capability to "detect, identify, and if necessary intercept aircraft over Canadian territory".5 So how did NORAD radar operators on September 11, 2001 identify aircraft flying over our airspace?

On September 11, 2001 NORAD radar operators identified aircraft "flying over our air space"6 by looking through logs of flight plans. "Much of the identifying process is done by hand…Flight plans from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) are compiled in logs and have to be manually searched to identify aircraft."7 A NORAD radar operator would cross check the radar data of an aircraft he/she was watching with information provided by the FAA. If the radar data on the aircraft matched the information provided in the FAA logs, the aircraft was identified as friendly. At other times, however, identifying aircraft flying "through our air space"8 entailed, "phone contact with FAA officials about commercial aircraft."9

We now come to understand that NORAD’s monitoring capabilities over the United States were even more robust on 9/11 then discussed in previous supplements of The NORAD Papers. Not only did NORAD monitor aircraft flying over American airspace, NORAD also identified 'suspect' aircraft flying over American airspace(identified meaning determining if the aircraft was friendly or unfriendly), and if the NORAD radar operator felt the necessity to reach out to his civilian colleagues at ATC concerning a particular ‘suspect’ aircraft then "phone contact with FAA officials about commercial aircraft", though a rare occurrence, was definitely an action that was undertaken.


1.; and