Were procedures changed on June 1, 2001 about intercepting off-course airplanes?

Skeptics Asked by Christian on November 27, 2020

Former Governor of Minnesota Jesse Ventura writes in American Conspiracies: Lies, Lies, and More Dirty Lies That the Government Tells Us:

Between September 2000 and June 2001, on 67 different occasions fighter jets were sent to intercept aircraft that had lost radio contact or their transponder signal or were flying off course, usually within ten minutes of any sign of a problem. (Contrary to what some people think, presidential approval wasn’t needed to intercept or even shoot down an aircraft.) Then, on June 1, 2001, the existing hijacking response procedures were changed to require approval by the secretary of defense before responding to a situation with lethal force. And when the call came into the Pentagon on 9/11, nobody answered the phone!

Is it true that before June 2001 it would have been official procedure to intercept planes and shoot them down in a scenario such as the one of 9/11 without needing high level approval but after that date approval was needed and not given on 9/11?

One Answer

According to, the rule in place to notify the Secretary of Defense was in place since at least 31 July 1997 has a page titled "Context of 'June 1, 2001: Revised Hijacking Procedure Outlines Defense Department Responsibilities'".

From this page, it provides a link to a document from the Joint Chiefs of Staff titled "AIRCRAFT PIRACY (HIJACKING) AND DESTRUCTION OF DERELICT AIRBORNE OBJECTS". This is most likely where Mr. Ventura is getting his information from.

a. Aircraft Piracy (Hijacking) of Civil and Military Aircraft. Pursuant to references a and b, the Administrator, Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), has exclusive responsibility to direct law enforcement activity related to actual or attempted aircraft piracy (hijacking) in the “special aircraft jurisdiction” of the United States. When requested by the Administrator, Department of Defense will provide assistance to these law enforcement efforts. Pursuant to reference c, the NMCC is the focal point within Department of Defense for providing assistance. In the event of a hijacking, the NMCC will be notified by the most expeditious means by the FAA. The NMCC will, with the exception of immediate responses as authorized by reference d, forward requests for DOD assistance to the Secretary of Defense for approval. DOD assistance to the FAA will be provided in accordance with reference d. Additional guidance is provided in Enclosure A.

The first note in this document is that there is no claim about the use of lethal force, as Mr. Ventura has claimed in his book.

The second, and most important note, is that this document is an Addenda to a 31 July 1997 document from the Joint Chiefs of Staff also titled "AIRCRAFT PIRACY (HIJACKING) AND DESTRUCTION OF DERELICT AIRBORNE OBJECTS". It is important to note that this document is identified as CJCSI 3610.01, whereas the document that Mr. Ventura is most likely using to assert his point is CJCSI 3610.01A.

In fact, CJCSI 3610.01A has a list of changes at the bottom, which are clearly the changes from CJCSI 3610.01

  1. Summary of Changes

a. Unmanned vehicles (UAV, ROV) added to the description of possible derelict airborne objects.

b. Statutory Authority for Responding to Aircraft Piracy enclosure removed and added to reference list.

c. In various places throughout the document, “USELEMNORAD” was replaced with “NORAD.”

d. FAA Order 7610.4J, 3 November 1998, “Special Military Operations,” was added as a reference.

It's very possible that these rules existed even earlier. CJCSI 3610.01 makes reference to and consolidates the following documents that I have yet to find copies of

  • MCM-102-92 : "Hijacking of Civil Aircraft"
  • CJCS MOP 51 : "Aircraft Piracy (Hijacking ) of Military and Military Contract Aircraft"
  • MCM- 173-90 : "Destruction of Derelict Airborne Objects"

It should also be noted that, contrary to Mr. Ventura's claim about lethal force, CJCSI 3610.01 explictdly forbids the use of lethal force by members of the US Military.

a. General. Military personnel will provide the following types of support: intercept, surveillance, lift, equipment, and communications. Military personnel may not participate in a search, seizure, arrest, or other similar activity. This restriction would include the apprehension of aircraft hijackers or use of military aircraft (fixed-wing or helicopter) or other vehicles as platforms for gunfire or the use of other weapons against suspected hijackers. In addition, assistance may not be provided under this enclosure if it could adversely affect national security or military preparedness.

Correct answer by DenisS on November 27, 2020

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