July 25, 2007

Why Did the World’s Most Advanced Electronics Warfare Plane Circle Over The White House on 9/11?

Why Did the World’s Most Advanced Electronics Warfare Plane Circle Over The White House on 9/11?

By Mark H. Gaffney

On September 11 2001, as the eyes of the nation were focused on the gruesome events at the World Trade Center, the networks interrupted their television coverage in New York with a breaking story from Washington. A large plane had just been sighted over the White House. Exactly when it first appeared is not certain, but the reports aired at about the time of the Pentagon strike, or soon after. Witnesses who saw the plane say it circled over Washington. CNN’s Senior White House correspondent John King observed it while standing in Lafayette Park, across the street from the White House. King reported live that “about 10 minutes ago, there was a white jet circling overhead. Now, you generally don't see planes in the area over the White House. That is restricted air space. No reason to believe that this jet was there for any nefarious purposes, but the Secret Service was very concerned, pointing up at the jet in the sky.”


CNN photographed the mystery plane as it flew over the Capitol. Unfortunately, the craft was too far away to identify.

Area P-56

The strange sighting of a large white plane above the White House on September 11, 2001 was noteworthy, because, as mentioned by John King and Peter Jennings, the airspace over Washington is very tightly restricted. In fact, it’s probably the most restricted airspace on the planet. On September 11, 2001 the prohibited area, known as area P-56, extended out seventeen miles in all directions from the Washington Monument.vi This zone included the Pentagon and virtually the entire Washington metropolitan area. It was more restricted than standard restricted FAA commercial air space, and was closely monitored by FAA radar. Every plane entering this area would have been detected immediately, and if not identified should have activated Washington’s air defenses. The Secret Service would have been alerted also, because, according to multiple sources the Secret Service has a direct feed to FAA radar. This was reported by the Washington Post,vii and by Richard A. Clark in his 9/11 memoir, Against All Enemies.viii The core of P-56 is the most restricted zone of all, and is centered around the White House, stretching from the Potomac River to downtown Washington. A separate area known as P-56B surrounds the Vice Presidential mansion on the grounds of the Naval Observatory, located near Wisconsin Avenue. Other than approved flights, no aircraft is allowed to fly through these areas.

One of Washington’s perennial security problems has been the close proximity of the capital to Reagan National Airport, which is located in Arlington, just west of the Potomac. Reagan’s flight corridors follow the river, hence, adjoin the most stringently prohibited area. After a series of violations in the 1990s the FAA and Secret Service jointly conducted a security review and arrived at a memorandum of understanding. In 1996 a “P-56 Work Group” was also set up to review procedures and make recommendations, some of which were implemented. Incidents continued, however. In July 1998 a scheduled American Airlines flight accidentally passed over the White House en route to Reagan Airport, prompting the airport manager to issue a stern warning to his flight controllers to “treat this area as a ‘Granite Mountain’ to be avoided in every possible way.” A similar letter was sent to pilots. Nevertheless, incidents continued in the period before the September 11 attack.

Given this history, it’s hardly surprising that the sudden appearance of an unidentified low-flying plane over the White House on 9/11 set off alarms. Let us remember, by this time the World Trade Center was in flames. Hundreds of people had already perished. Multiple hijackings were known to be in progress. The only planes that should have been in the sky over Washington were fighters for the purpose of protecting the nation’s capital. Yet, as we know, Washington lay completely undefended. Scrambled F-16 fighters from Langley AFB, near Norfolk, Virginia, did not establish a Combat Air Patrol (CAP) over the city until shortly before 10 AM–––much too late. And subsequently, the 911 Commission absolved the Joint Chiefs of all responsibility for the security breach. The panel put the blame squarely on the FAA, for failing to notify NORAD about the hijackings. But what about the mysterious plane that circled over the White House? The fact that it penetrated to the very core of P-56 raises obvious questions that the 9/11 Commission should have investigated. Yet, incredibly, the panel never once broached the issue. The 9/11 Commission Report makes no mention of the white plane, not even a passing remark in a footnote. Nor does it mention the news reports cited above. The question that every American should be asking is: Why not?

In short, the 9/11 Commission conformed to the pattern of selective denial, operative since the period shortly after September 11, when the official narrative was born. I would add: this was only possible because the compliant US media played along by censoring itself. The US press dropped all mention of the mysterious white plane, which quietly disappeared from history. To this day the Pentagon says it has no knowledge about any plane circling over the White House on 9/11.

The evidence I will now present, however, clearly refutes the Pentagon.

The Evidence

In March 2007, after I posted an article on the internet about 9/11,x I received a email from an independent 9/11 investigator, who directed me to some stunning evidence of which I was unaware. (This individual chooses to remain anonymous because he is pursuing several FOIA requests, which he doesn’t want to place in jeopardy. Hereafter, I will refer to him by his screen name: Pinnacle.) I was surprised to learn that the evidence was not new. In fact, it had been around for quite some time. It seems that during the evacuation of the White House on 9/11 a woman captured an amazing photo of the mystery plane. Linda Brookhart, at the time Vice President of the Taxpayer Federation of Illinois, was in Washington attending a National Taxpayers Conference in the old Executive Office Building (located immediately next to the White House) when she and many others were told to vacate the building. Linda explained to me that after she walked outside she was standing in the street talking to a security guard when she just happened to look up and see the plane.xi At that point, she snapped this excellent photo with her Pentax. The photo refutes both the 9/11 Commission and the Pentagon. Fortunately, it also enables us to identify the mystery plane–––as we will see.

I learned, later, that the BBC also captured a video of the mysterious plane as it circled over Washington. The BBC aired the footage in a live report on the day of the attack. Unfortunately, the BBC footage is of poor quality. However, the Spanish Telemundo network also filmed the plane, and they too aired a live report. The following excellent still-shot was taken from this footage. Notice, the caption explains in Spanish that a third plane flew over the Pentagon. Presumably, the first plane was Flight 77. The second was the C-130H mentioned in the 9/11 Commission Report. The third was the mystery plane, which apparently made a pass over Arlington after (or possibly before?) flying near the White House.

Pinnacle also informed me about another startling piece of evidence. As it happened, a reporter at the White House also filmed the mystery plane as it made a banking turn; and this short video segment even appeared in a made-for-TV docudrama about Flight 93. The two-hour movie, titled The Flight that Fought Back, aired on the Discovery Channel in August 2005. Once alerted to its existence, I had no difficulty locating this short clip on the internet. A 9/11 investigator named Chris Bornag had long since pulled it from the film and posted it at You-Tube as part of a short melange of video footage about 9/11. Anyone with access to cyberspace may view it on line.xii The following still-shot was taken from this footage.

A DVD of the original Discovery Channel program is also available for purchase at Amazon.com. The crucial segment appears 47 minutes into the film (in scene four). It is not a part of the dramatic production itself, but is a short segment of raw documentary footage embedded in the film. The crucial segment is very brief, only about three-to-four seconds long, which may help to explain why this remarkable footage did not attract more attention.

At that time I had seen no reference to it in any of the published literature about 9/11, nor on any of the many 9/11 web sites. However, I now realize I simply missed it. As early as October 2006 Pilots for 9/11 Truth posted an excellent forum discussion about this important evidence.xiii Although the cameraman has not yet been identified, there is every reason to believe the footage is bona fide.

As I’ve noted, in the video the plane makes a banking turn. The angle was fortunate, because it brought the plane’s unique features and markings into plain view, easily establishing its identity. The aircraft belonged to the US Air Force. Indeed, this was no ordinary plane. It was an E-4B, the US military’s most advanced electronics platform. Even a casual comparison shows that the still-shot from the docudrama matches an official photo (see below) of the E-4B, from a USAF web site.xiv There is no mistake.

The plane is a modified Boeing 747-200. Notice the white color, the US flag painted on the vertical stabilizer (i.e, the tail), and the blue stripe and insignia on the fuselage. The clincher, however, is the “bump” directly behind the bulging 747 cockpit. It is clearly discernible in both photos. No other plane has this piggy-backed appendage. It is unique to the E-4B and is integral to the plane’s military role as an airborne command center. The appendage contains a communication satellite-dish and perhaps other advanced electronic hardware. In fact, this is the same plane that Linda Brookhart photographed outside the White House. How can we tell? Although her vantage point was not ideal–––Linda was standing in the street looking almost straight up when she snapped the shot–––nonetheless, a careful inspection shows that the plane is an E-4B. Notice, the aircraft in her photo has four engines and all of the characteristics of a Boeing 747. In addition to the white color, which is also a match, another crucial detail positively identifies the airplane. Notice the tiny blue spot near the rear of the aircraft. Several close-ups of an E-4B clearly show that this blue spot is simply the place on the fuselage where the blue stripes painted on the side of the plane come together at the rear of the aircraft. This same blue spot can also be seen in the still-shot from the Telemundo network. No mistake. It’s the same plane.

The spot is the only place on the 747 fuselage where the E-4B’s otherwise conspicuous blue stripes are visible, from beneath. This establishes a positive ID, as no other airplane has this unique combination of features. Linda explained to me that at the time of the evacuation she believed the White House was under attack, an impression confirmed by White House officials. On September 12, 2001 Air Fleischer told the press that “We have specific and credible information that the White House and Air Force One were intended targets of these attacks.”xv Sean McCormack, a spokesman for the National Security Council (NSC), made a similar statement, as did Attorney General John Ashcroft.xvi

The Raw CNN Footage

Fortunately, it is not necessary to place undue weight on the Discovery Channel clip, because powerful additional evidence has now emerged. Recently, we learned that a CNN cameraman also captured the E-4B on film as it flew over the White House on September 11, 2001. Pinnacle deserves credit for discovering this amazing video evidence in the CNN archive, where it apparently gathered dust for nearly six years. As far as we know, it has never aired on US television, nor appeared on the internet–––until now.xix

The video is 18 minutes long and documents in detail the White House evacuation on September 11, 2001. As the video begins the CNN cameraman and other members of the press are within the White House compound. A guard can be heard instructing everyone to leave. The film continues to roll as the cameraman joins the exodus of journalists and staffers walking down the White House driveway. At this point, a voice can be heard talking about “an explosion at the Pentagon.” The cameraman leaves through the White House gate. In other scenes, familiar Washington landmarks, including the old Executive Office Building, Lafayette Park and Jackson Place, are plainly in evidence. Suddenly, sirens are heard and two red fire engines appear in front of the old Executive Office Building, apparently in response to the fire alarm reported by the Washington Post.xx At 6:20 minutes into the video the camera pans up over Jackson Place and catches the E-4B against a backdrop of blue sky. We pulled the following three still-shots from the video. As the camera zooms in the four engines, white color, even the blue spot on the fuselage, are plainly visible.

The E-4B, moving north, banks to the east and makes another even lower pass, filling about a fourth of the screen until it passes out of sight behind a tree. This footage is similar to the Discovery Channel clip, however, the CNN video is steadier and generally of better quality. In the bright sunlight the blue stripe on the side of the plane and the “bump” behind the cockpit

are clearly discernible. The total length of the E- 4B segment is about twenty-nine seconds. Later in the video, Secret Service agents can be seen moving around on the roof of the White House. About 8:40-8:45 minutes into the film smoke is suddenly visible behind the White House. At this point the camera shifts to several men with cell phones talking on the sidewalk. Apparently, they have just learned about the Pentagon strike. One says:

“Did it actually hit the Pentagon?” Another voice says: “It’s unclear. There’s a fire over there.” This stunning CNN footage eliminates any remaining shred of doubt. It proves that an E-4B circled over Washington at approximately the time of the Pentagon attack. (Required disclaimer: “Usage of the above CNN material does not constitute an implied or express endorsement by CNN.”)

“We See All”

Again, I must emphasize: the E-4B is no ordinary plane. Its official designation is the National Airborne Operations Center (NAOC), although in former years it was also known as the National Emergency Airborne Command Post (NEACP), pronounced “knee-cap.” It is more commonly referred to as the “doomsday plane,” because the E-4B’s premier function is to serve as a flying command, control and communications (C3) center in a national emergency, or in the event of nuclear war. When the president travels on Air Force One, an E-4B normally follows behind the presidential entourage, in order to be near-at-hand. Strangely, however, this usual protocol was not followed on September 11, 2001. For some reason, no E-4B accompanied the president to Florida on the morning of the attack. In Air War Over America, the official US Air Force account of the events of 9/11, author Leslie Filson mentions that an AWACS plane, which happened to be on a training mission off the coast of Florida, was ordered to stand in and fulfill the E-4B’s usual role.xxi The AWACS plane followed Bush when he departed Sarasota-Bradenton airport en route to Barksdale AFB, in Louisiana. To date, the US government has never explained why an E-4B failed to accompany the president on 9/11.

Unlike Air Force One, the E-4B can be refueled in flight and so has considerably greater range. For this reason, when the president goes abroad on long trips he occasionally flies on an E-4B to save travel time. The plane also doubles as a mobile office for the Secretary of Defense. Recently, for example, when the newly appointed Defense Secretary Robert Gates traveled to London for talks with Prime Minister Tony Blair, he rode on an E- 4B.xxii According to various reports, his predecessor, Donald Rumsfeld, also frequently used the plane.

A recent article in the Air Force Civil Engineer describes the E-4B as “a truly amazing” aircraft, and provides more details about its impressive specs.xxiii The $800 million dollar plane has all of the advanced electronics needed for world-wide communication. If Air Force One can accurately be described as a flying White House, the E-4B is a substitute Pentagon. The plane’s electronics cover the full radio spectrum, from extremely low frequency (ELF) to ultra high frequency (UHF), enabling the E-4B to communicate with all US military commands, world-wide, including tactical and strategic forces, naval ships, planes, nuclear-armed missiles, even submarines. One of the plane’s antennas is a long wire mounted on a spool at the rear of the plane. When in use, the wire unreels, dragging a small cone at the end of the antenna hundreds of feet behind the plane. In short, the E-4B is a fully equipped communications platform and can serve as an airborne command center for all US military forces in a national or world crisis. The plane carries its own electrical-generating plant to power its electronic hardware, which is also shielded against the damaging electromagnetic pulse (EMP) effects generated by nuclear explosions. Even the plane’s white color is a design feature, not simply cosmetic. Its purpose is to help the E-4B survive in a nuclear battlefield by reflecting heat away from the plane.

The Air Force has a fleet of four E-4Bs, one of which is always on alert.


The spacious 747 fuselage includes command and work areas, conference and briefing rooms, as well as an operations center or battle station. In addition, the plane reportedly has a rest area, bunks for sleeping, even a galley stocked with a week’s provisions. In 2005 the US Air Force awarded Boeing Corporation a $2 billion contract to upgrade the Nightwatch fleet, an enormous amount of money, considering that the fleet includes only four planes. The goal of the five-year agreement was “increased readiness.”xxvi

Practicing Armageddon

According to one report, on September 11, 2001 three of the E-4Bs were participating in a live command-level exercise known as Global Guardian.xxvii The exercise is an annual event, and is staged to test the readiness of the US military’s command and control procedures involved in waging thermonuclear war. The 2001 exercise started the week before September 11 under the directorship of Admiral Richard Mies, commander-in-chief of STRATCOM. The drill was reportedly in “full swing” at the time of the 9/11 attack. Numerous other military commands also participated, including NORAD. While few details about the 2001 exercise have been released, in previous years Global Guardian involved the US Space Command, the Air Combat Command, and the US Atlantic and Pacific Fleets.xxviii

The 9/11 Commission Report makes no mention of Global Guardian, but it does mention another 9/11 exercise, Vigilant Guardian, which also apparently involved NORAD.xxix It is now known that at least ten and as many as fifteen security drills were in progress on September 11, 2001,xxx and Global Guardian was probably the umbrella for at least several of these, including Vigilant Guardian. Even the name points to this. One of the E-4B’s secondary roles is to provide a mobile command center for use by FEMA during national emergencies.xxxi This raises additional questions, because as we know, a FEMA drill, named Tripod, was also in progress in New York City on September 11, 2001. Tripod involved hundreds of government employees and its purpose, according to NYC mayor Rudy Giuliani, was to defend against a hypothetical biochemical attack.xxxii

Starting in the 1990s, Global Guardian included pre-planned mock attacks upon the military’s computer and information systems. For example, during the 1998 exercise “terrorists” attempted to disrupt STRATCOM’s internal communications by hacking into its computers, and also by tying up its phone/FAX lines with phony messages.xxxiii Evidently, these “terrorist attacks” were at least partly successful, although the details have never been released. In recent years, the military has incorporated similar “attacks” into Global Guardian exercises. However, it is not known whether these were a part of the 2001 drill. We do know that on 9/11 one of the E-4Bs was en route to Offutt AFB with a high-level military advisory panel on board, including its chairman, retired Lt. General Brent Scowcroft, evidently for the purpose of observing the exercise. The role of this panel, whose official name is the Foreign Intelligence Advisory Board (FIAB), is to monitor US intelligence agencies. STRATCOM reportedly terminated the 2001 exercise at 9:03 AM, when Flight 175 crashed into the South Tower.xxxiv However, the E-4Bs remained aloft.xxxv As I have shown, one of them circled over Washington.

Schedule Change in 2001

In previous years the military always staged Global Guardian in October or November and, according to various reports, the 2001 exercise was likewise originally scheduled for October.xxxvi However, for reasons that have never been disclosed, the Joint Chiefs changed the plan and conducted the 2001 exercise during the week of September 11. The following year the date reverted back. The 2002 Global Guardian came off in October, as in revious years, and this has continued to be the case.xxxvii All of which raises a number of disturbing questions. Why did the Joint Chiefs change the date of Global Guardian in 2001? Even more importantly, why was the world’s most sophisticated electronics warfare plane slowly circling over Washington at the time of the September 11 attack? The E-4B command and control platform normally flies at high altitude. Moreover, its cruising speed is just under 600 mph. Why was an E-4B flying at slow speed and low elevation over Washington on 9/11? Was it flying low to evade FAA radar?

Some months ago Pinnacle filed a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request with the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). In it he requested two types of data: identification data, if any, from transponders, as well as the images of all radar tracks for Washington between 9:30-10:00 AM on the morning of September 11, 2001. The FAA completely ignored his request for radar images, and merely responded that they had “no identification records.” Pinnacle then filed an appeal; however, as of this writing he has received no final decision. Pinnacle also filed a FOIA request with the Secret Service for all relevant information, including radar data, and was told the Secret Service has “no records or documents of any kind relating to any aircraft whatsoever flying near or circling above the White House on 9/11 in the 9:30-10 AM time frame.”xxxviii

Pinnacle also sent the basic information in this article to his Congressman, Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA) along with a request that Schiff look into the matter. His congressman complied by making an inquiry through official channels about “a four-engine white jet” observed and photographed near the White House on 9/11. Soon after, Rep. Schiff received a letter from the US Air Force, which read: “This is in reply…. to your request for information relating to an unidentified aircraft that may have been in restricted airspace near the White House on September 11, 2001 between the hours of 9:30 ad 10:00 AM. Air Force officials have no knowledge of the aircraft in question.”xxxix It would appear the US Air Force is lying. Given the evidence presented above, there can be no doubt about the plane’s presence and identity. The only remaining question is: Why was an E-4B circling the White House on 9/11?

In a retrospective 2002 article in the Washington Post, reporter Bob Woodward wrote that on September 11 “Pentagon officials ordered up the airborne command post [i.e., the E-4B] used only in national emergencies.”xl The context of his story implies that the order was issued after the Pentagon strike. But the compelling evidence I have just presented confirms that at least one of the E-4Bs was already aloft at the time of the 9/11 attack. Woodward, no doubt, based his story on information provided by sources at the White House. Obviously, they fed him a fairy tale. If the E-4B command and control platform that circled over Washington on 9/11 was on a legitimate mission, then why this obfuscation? And why the denials by the US military, FAA and Secret Service? If the E-4B was responding to a terrorist attack, acknowledging the basic facts in the case surely would have helped to restore public confidence in our government and the US military.

Then, why lie? When people engage in deception it is usually because they have something to hide. What is our government hiding?

Catch-22: The Need for a New Investigation

Pinnacle and I have continued to vet the video evidence. According to the credits for The Flight that Fought Back, the Discovery Channel docudrama was produced by a London-based company called Brook Lapping. When I contacted Brook Lapping I was told they used the E-4B segment under license from FOX News, which holds the copyright. Brook Lapping also informed me they could provide no further assistance in the matter. After numerous phone calls I was led to a company called ITN Source, which handles all of FOX’s licensing contracts. A cordial individual at their Burbank office assisted me. However, a search failed to locate the short segment in the FOX News archive, at which point I was informed that there was nothing more that they could do. My repeated attempts to contact the FOX legal department were fruitless. FOX never responded to my queries.

In this way my investigation reached a blind alley. Shades of Catch-22. All of this underscores the urgent need for a new 9/11 investigation: It must be independent, nonpartisan, adequately funded, and empowered with the authority to subpoena witnesses. Representatives of FOX News must be brought before a genuine panel and made to testify under oath about the whereabouts of this important evidence; and why it was made to disappear. Bob Woodward should also be subpoenaed and asked to identify the source of his misinformation. Without a genuine investigation, we will probably never learn the true role that the E-4B played on September 11.

Mark H. Gaffney's first book, Dimona the Third Temple? (1989), was a pioneering study of the Israeli nuclear weapons program. His latest, Gnostic Secrets of the Naassenes, was a finalist for the 2004 Narcissus Book Award. Mark can be reached for comment at markhgaffney@earthlink.net

Also visit Mark's web site at http://www.gnosticsecrets.com/

Note by Arabesque: by coincidence, I had just written a blog that discussed this plane and referenced previous articles by this author before this new article came out in the Journal of 9/11 studies. Read it here: The Pentagon Flight Path Misinformation, Stand-Down, War Games, and the Three Mysterious Planes