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Chaos and Confusion at NORAD on Newly Released 9/11 Tapes

This is a partial transcript from "Hannity & Colmes," August 3, 2006, that has been edited for clarity.

SEAN HANNITY, CO-HOST: On September 11, 2001, as terrorists took control of our four commercial airplanes, there was chaos, there was confusion at NORAD's Northeast Air Defense headquarters.

Now, journalist Michael Bronner has now obtained 30 hours of NORAD audio transmissions from 9/11 and in this month's Vanity Fair he documents just how chaotic and uncoordinated the government's response was. Listen up.

(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We have a problem here. We have a hijacked aircraft headed towards New York, and we need you guys to — we need someone to scramble some F-16s or something up there to help us out.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Is this real world or exercise?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No, this is not an exercise, not a test.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Is he inbound to JFK?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We don't know.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You don't know where he is at all?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He's been hijacked, the pilot is having a hard time talking to the — we don't know where he is going.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I don't know where I am scrambling these guys to. I need a direction, a destination.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: OK, I am going to give you the z point. It's just north of New York City.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: A plane just hit the World Trade Center.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: What?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Was it a 737?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The World Trade Center.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Who are you talking to? Oh, my God. Oh God. Yes, ma'am. Did you just hear the information regarding the World Trade Center? Being hit by an aircraft?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I am sorry?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Being hit by an aircraft.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You're kidding.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It's on the world news.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: They have a second possible hijacker.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Is this explosion part of that that we're looking at now on TV?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes. And there's a possible second hijack, also a United Airlines.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Two planes?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Give me a location.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Third aircraft hijacked heading toward Washington.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Have you asked the question of what we're actually going to do when we find this guy? Are we going to shoot him down? They've got passengers onboard. Did they talk about that?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: OK, Foxy, I've got an aircraft six miles east of the White House. Get your fighters.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We've got a United 93 out there. Are you aware of that?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: United 93?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We've got three more hijacked airborne.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That has a bomb onboard.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: A bomb onboard? And this is confirmed? You have a mode-3 sir?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No, we lost his transponder.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Negative clearance to shoot.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: God damn it.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: United 93, have you got information on that yet?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yeah, he's down.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: He's down?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: When did he land? Because we had confirmation.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He did not land.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Oh, he's down down.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Somewhere up northeast of Camp David.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Northeast of Camp David.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That's the last report. They don't know exactly where.

(END AUDIO CLIP)

HANNITY: More of that audio can be heard at Vanityfair.com. Based on the tapes, Bronner found much of the government's testimony about the air defense response on 9/11 was incorrect or he claims misleading. Michael Bronner joins us now. It's hard to hear that.

MICHAEL BRONNER, JOURNALIST: It is hard. It's very hard.

HANNITY: Would the government ever be ready for some thing like that, do you think, or is it one of those things that are so unpredictable that that seems almost the natural response?

BRONNER: I think when you listen to the tapes and you hear how the troops are responding on the operations floor, I think they're reacting in real time making quick decisions. It's the breakdown between the FAA and the military trying to figure out where the planes were that caused them the biggest problems all day.

HANNITY: We heard that segment about the transponder being turned off was so that they couldn't locate the plane.

BRONNER: Right, that was the biggest problem all day. The hijackers flipped off a switch in the cockpit, which turns off a beacon, which sends a signal to the civilian controls telling the name of the plane and its location. Once they did that they made the military completely dependent on the FAA to try to tell them where these planes were and they were simply speaking different languages.

HANNITY: In an evil sense if they wanted to accomplish the sick goal of theirs that was important?

BRONNER: At one point in the tapes you hear the mission crew commander say wow, these guys are smart. They knew exactly what they wanted to do.

ALAN COLMES, CO-HOST: Michael, you say the Pentagon deliberately misled the 9/11 commission and the American public. How so?

BRONNER: I don't say that specifically. I say that — basically what I tried to do in this piece is digest the material, second of all, put it in context within the timeline, and make this room come alive.

COLMES: You indicate that we were misled, correct?

BRONNER: The 9/11 commission members that I talked to certainly believe they were misled and were extremely angry.

COLMES: Misled specifically about, for example, whether or not there was command to shoot down United 93?

BRONNER: Well, the military and members of the administration imply after the attack for months and even years that they were watching United 93 for a long time, that they were debating. They made the tough decision to shoot it down. But as we learn in the tapes, the military didn't know about United 93 until four minutes after it crashed.

COLMES: So the administration purposely lied to the American people and the 9/11 commission about the timeline, why?

BRONNER: I don't say that specifically. The 9/11 commission members I spoke to feel that was the case.

COLMES: The timeline show in these tapes would bear that out. Wouldn't it?

BRONNER: It would seem so.

COLMES: And what would be the motivation not to share to the American public or the 9/11 commission the truth of what was happening?

BRONNER: We know from the tapes that the civilian controller who first hears that there are problems on United 93 — he actually heard the struggle in the cockpit and made valiant efforts to try to get other planes to help see where that plane was. He passed that information up the chain, somehow no one in the FAA told the military until...

HANNITY: You have no direct evidence that anybody purposely lied?

BRONNER: That's what the Department of Transportation and the Department of Defense inspector generals are looking into.

HANNITY: But there is no evidence or proof?

BRONNER: There is clear evidence that the timeline that the military presented at the first hearing is wrong.

HANNITY: That doesn't mean...

BRONNER: No. That's why the investigations...

HANNITY: All right. Appreciate it. Thanks for being with us.

BRONNER: You bet.

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