Did the government conduct, or plan to conduct, any simulated crashes of fuel-laden aircraft into command and control centers prior to the aerial attack on 9-11 on the Pentagon and World Trade Center or was such a possibility beyond the imagination of the national leadership?


Agencies of the government had considered such an event prior to 9-11.

The National Reconnaissance Office (NRO), which manages US spy satellites, had scheduled well in advance of 9-11 an exercise in which a simulated civilian jet crashed into one of the four towers at the agency's headquarters in Chantilly, Va. The simulated attack was scheduled on the morning of 9-11-01 at approximately the time that American Airlines flight 77 crashed into the Pentagon, which was less than 4 miles away. The simulation was intended to test NRO's employees' ability to respond to a disaster. (Those employees in the simulation would be in the position of tourists on the earthquake ride at Universal Studio theme park at the time of a real earthquake).

The simulation was organized and managed by John Fulton, a CIA officer assigned as chief of NRO's strategic gaming division. Fulton, a member of U.S. Joint Forces Command's Project Alpha - a "think tank" for advanced concepts related to such issues as homeland security, had formerly served as the mission director for the satellite imagery program.

The NRO, after 9-11, officially described the exercise as just an errant aircraft that crashed into one of its buildings "a simulated accident." But that begs the question why the NRO, which is concerned with real-time intelligence from satellites at a time of a national emergency, would be concerned with an unintentional rather than intentional crash. The real issue is what intelligence, or risk assessment data, caused the CIA and NRO to conduct this simulation.

The North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD) also planned a hijacking drill involving two American passenger planes, including scrambling interceptors to respond to the simulated highjackings, and one scenario that included shooting down the airliners. According to Major Mike Snyder, a NORAD spokesman, the scenario was planned before the September 11 terrorist attacks, but not carried out until the following summer.

So the possibility was not beyond the imagination of the government.