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Why the Pentagon was so vulnerable

Posted By Paul Sperry On 09/11/2001 @ 8:00 pm In Front Page | Comments Disabled

WASHINGTON – Defense Department officials actually considered a terrorist scenario in which Islamic fundamentalist martyrs crashed planes into the otherwise impregnable Pentagon, but they ruled out countermeasures, such as anti-aircraft batteries and radar, as too costly and too dangerous to surrounding residential areas, a senior Pentagon official specializing in counterterrorism told WorldNetDaily in an exclusive interview.

What’s more, the airspace over the Pentagon, which is next to Reagan National Airport, is heavy with flight traffic, making engagement of threatening commercial aircraft too risky, the official says.

A low-flying American Airlines 757 jet loaded with
fuel torpedoed, full throttle, into the south side of
the Pentagon, near a helipad, at about 9:45 a.m. today
– less than an hour after two jets, one an American
767 and the other a United Airlines 767, slammed into
the twin World Trade Center towers in New York. Much
of the five-sided U.S. military headquarters was
engulfed in flames and smoke.

Officials suspect all three planes were hijacked by foreign terrorists.

“In the threat community, we have considered that people would do something like this,” the Pentagon official said, “but we didn’t have plans to defend against it.”

“But I think we’ll be looking at it a little bit differently in the future,” he said.

Unlike the White House, the Pentagon has no anti-aircraft batteries to defend against attacks from the air.

“It’s tough to defend such a big building,” the Pentagon official said.

“And the air traffic is heavy. We’ve got helicopters [carrying mostly Pentagon brass] coming in and out several times a day. And aircraft [from Reagan National] come in right down the [Potomac] river within a couple hundred yards of us,” he added. “It’s a tough nut. I mean, what do you do? Do you engage? If you do, do you end up with even more [civilian] casualties? The [gunned-down] plane could land anywhere.”

Arlington, Va., a large residential community, is next door to the Pentagon. Some 100 people, mostly Pentagon
employees, were hospitalized after the Pentagon attack.

High costs also convinced defense officials to table the idea of installing anti-aircraft guns at the Pentagon.

“It’s quite expensive, because not only do you have anti-aircraft, but then you’ve got to put radar in,” said the official, who requested his identity be withheld. “And it’s not like putting it on a ship at sea.”

“So these are some of the discussions that have occurred,” he said. “You know, what do you do?”

Something the Defense Department has been able to do to help protect its building and personnel from terrorist attacks is to begin reinforcing load-bearing columns and walls inside the Pentagon with high-strength fiber sheathing that would minimize casualties not only by controlling flying debris, but also by preventing the collapse of flooring.

“The materials won’t stop a plane, but they will probably stop the progressive collapse of columns,” the official said.

Unfortunately, only one “wedge,” or section, of the Pentagon has been retrofitted with the tough Aramid fabric. The jet’s impact caused another portion of the Pentagon building to collapse.

“The new wedge under renovation does have that protection, but the material is only in that new wedge,” the official said.

The entire Pentagon is scheduled to undergo renovation. Contractors are working on one wedge at a time, clearing workers from offices and rebuilding walls and floors.

Besides wrapping columns with the Aramid fabric, contractors also are adding stiles around the structure to thwart car-bombers.

Related story:

Anti-terrorism agency underfunded?


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