In the March 2005 issue of Popular Mechanics (PM) magazine an article appeared titled Debunking the 9/11 Myths which, according to the article's subtitle, ""examines the evidence and consults the experts to refute the most persistent conspiracy theories of September 11."1 In the section dealing with NORAD, titled No Stand-Down Order, the article explains NORAD's seemingly lackluster response to the September 11 attacks with the following:
Why couldn't ATC find the hijacked flights? When the hijackers turned off the planes' transponders, which broadcast identifying signals, ATC had to search 4500 identical radar blips crisscrossing some of the country's busiest air corridors. And NORAD's sophisticated radar? It ringed the continent, looking outward for threats, not inward. "It was like a doughnut," Martin says [Major Douglas Martin, public affairs officer for NORAD]. "There was no coverage in the middle." Pre-9/11, flights originating in the States were not seen as threats and NORAD wasn't prepared to track them.2
In previous supplements of The NORAD Papers (at www.DNotice.org), I posted articles/documents published before September 11, 2001 that positively affirmed NORAD's robust monitoring capabilities over the territorial airspace of the United States. These pre-911 articles/documents affirmed that NORAD tracked all aircraft (both foreign and domestic flights originating in the United States) over the air space of the United States. Recently, however, I regrettably discovered that I was not the first to learn of NORAD's true monitoring capabilities over the United States and write about it. To my surprise, The 9/11 Commission Report3 was the first to detail NORAD's true monitoring capabilities over the airspace of the United States.
With respect to interagency collaboration between the FAA and NORAD in the event of a hijacking on any give day before September 11, 2001, the commission report says of NORAD's radar tracking abilities for hijacked flights originating within the United States:
NORAD would receive tracking information for the hijacked aircraft either from joint use radar [unattended radar that PM refers to above as the radar sites that "ringed the continent".4] or from the relevant FAA air traffic control facility [Notice that Major Martin and PM say nothing about these other FAA air traffic control facilities that also provided NORAD with tracking information.]. Every attempt would be made to have the hijacked aircraft squawk 7500 to help NORAD track it.5