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Sept. 11 panel: Poor coordination hindered 9/11 response

SHARE Sept. 11 panel: Poor coordination hindered 9/11 response

WASHINGTON — The terror strikes of Sept. 11, 2001 overwhelmed all immediate efforts to counter or even comprehend their scope, a bipartisan commission reported Thursday, and spread confusion to the point that Vice President Dick Cheney mistakenly thought U.S. warplanes shot down two aircraft.

The front line civilian and military agencies struggled to "improvise a homeland defense against an unprecedented challenge they had never encountered and had never trained to meet," the panel said.

"We fought many phantoms that day," Gen. Richard Myers, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told the panel. He noted that reports of car bombings and other terrorist acts spread quickly — and falsely — in the nerves-on-edge hours after the World Trade Center and Pentagon were struck by planes hijacked by terrorists.

The commission issued its findings as it held the final public session of a momentous review of the worst terror strikes in the nation's history. The panel is expected to make a final report next month into the events that killed nearly 3,000.

The commission said efforts to respond to four hijackings that day were plagued on multiple fronts.

One plane moved into a gap in Federal Aviation Administration radar coverage. A single air traffic controller wound up with responsibility for two hijacked planes simultaneously.

The FAA failed to notify the military that one of the four planes had been hijacked. The FAA also incorrectly told the military that the first plane to crash into the World Trade Center was still in the air after impact.