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John S.

White

My career as an air traffic controller began in 1965 when I joined the United States Air
Force. My duty assignments included Goodfellow Air Force Base, San Angelo, Texas
and Tan Son Nhut Air Base, Republic of Vietnam. In 1970,1 was hired by the FAA and
assigned to Los Angeles Center in Palmdale, California. During my 17 1/2 years at Los
Angeles Center, I held positions as an Air Traffic Control Specialist, Airspace and
Procedures Specialist, and Area Supervisor. In 1987,1 was transferred to the Air Traffic
Division in the Western-Pacific Region where I served for more than two years as a
Planning Specialist in the Planning, Requirements and Automation Branch. In 1989,1
was promoted to the position of Assistant Air Traffic Manager at the Honolulu Center
Radar Approach (CERAP). During my three years in Hawaii, I also served as the Air
Traffic Manager of both the Honolulu Air Traffic Control Tower and the Honolulu
CERAP.

In 1992,1 was promoted to the position of Assistant Program Manager at the Air
Traffic Control System Command Center located at FAA Headquarters in Washington
D.C. During the eleven years I worked at the ATCSCC, there were many organization
realignments and the ATCSCC was moved from FAA Headquarters to its present
location in Herndon Virginia. In this period of time, I held the positions of Assistant
Program Manager, Assistant Division Manager and Division Manager. On September
11, 2001,1 held the position of Manager of the System Efficiency Division.
UNCLASSIFIED
COMMISSION SENSITIVE
MEMORANDUM FOR THE RECORD

Event: John White, former Assistant. Program Manager for Administration at the
ATCSCC, "Command Center", Herndon VA

Type: Interview

Date: May 7, 2004

Special Access Issues: None

Prepared By: Lisa Sullivan

Team: 8

Participants (non-Commission): None

Participants (Commission): Miles Kara and John Azzarello

Location: GSA Conference Room

Background

From 1965-1969, he was in the US Air Force; in 1970 he joined FAA at Los Angeles
Center; he spent 14 years as a controller; from 1989-1992 he was in Hawaii as an AT
manager; November 1992, he started at the Command Center at FAA HDQTS in
Washington, and then helped build the Command Center out in Herndon, Virginia. They
moved in March 1994. He retired on January 3, 2004.

Command Center leadership

On 9/11, Jack Kies was the Manger Air Traffic Tactical Operations (ATT-1); Linda
Schuessler was the Facility Manager at the Command Center (ATT-100); John White
was the Manager of System Efficiency (ATT-200) at the Command Center.

Jack Kies was not at the Command Center on 9/11. He was on travel.

Command Center

The concern of the Command Center is supply and demand - capacity issues and traffic
flow management. The job was to ensure that the system didn't overload one airport at
any one given time.

The Command Center has expanded since then; it is now a communications facility - it
commands a lot of data - a lot of which is not directly related to air traffic management.
Prior to 9/11 it was going that way.
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We have a lot of automation activity that supports ATC function but it also gives
information all over the world. For instance, CNN and the Weather Channel use
Command Center information. They read Command Center advisories.

"Command Center," as a term, is misleading.

What was the Command Center's role in a hijacking?

There were no "legitimate" hijackings in the United States for a considerable period of
time. On 9/10/01, a hijacking was a method of extortion. "No one thought a hijack would
ever result in an airplane being turned into a missile."

The Command Center did not have a large role in response to a hijacking, other than
being aware of the situation. The primary concern of the Command Center was to
prevent the hijacked plane from disrupting the paths of other planes in the system.

The authority of the ATC System was given to Command Center by Jane Garvey in
1999. The change is reflected in the handbook. 7210.3, the controllers' hijack protocol,
was not changed to reflect authority of the Command Center over the national air space.

Lufthansa Hijacking

He wasn't involved in that. He remembers the incident.

Hijack Coordinator

ACS 1 and 2 were Mike Canavan and Lynn Osmus. Under FAA Security division,
operations and intelligence divisions existed. White would assume when information on a
hijacking came in, the WOC would brief the ACS, the Administrator, and the Deputy
Administrator.

Would you, at the Command Center, know who the hijack coordinator was on any given
day?

No, he does not know who the hijack coordinator was on 9/11.

Regional Operations Center and the Command Center

The plan to eliminate the Regional Operations Centers has been floated within the FAA.
The ATC Division Manager of all the different regions has their own little "kingdoms".
They are all resistant to change. The FAA and ATC have not changed that much since
1970. They talk about modernization, but it is still very much the same. A profession as
young as ATC should not stagnate as it is. Change has to be driven by structure.

Misinformation on 9/11
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"On 9/11, it was obvious to me when I was on the phone that 60-percent of the
information was wrong."

For instance, the US Secret Service reported that UAL 93 had crashed into Camp David.
"They confirmed that, I heard it; it was in my ear." "We thought it was still in
Pennsylvania." hi addition, Indianapolis Center passed information to Command Center
that a plane had crashed on the border of Ohio and Kentucky. "We passed that
information raw up the line."

He attributes that misinformation in part to a lot of stove-pipes in the government. The


Command Center floor is an attempt to bring people together to eliminate stove-piping.

"If, in the event of a crisis, the best thing to do is have the USAF, NORAD, the FAA, and
the FBI in the same room so they are all on the same page, than that's what we should
have and we don't have it."

For instance, the DHS has a Washington Area Ops Center across the street from the
Command Center in Herndon. They were at one time located in the Command Center
facility. Since they built their own facility, "we don't talk to them"; "there's no way we'd
have rapid communication with them in the event of another crisis."

When the first plane hit the WTC; my mind did not allow me to think, "Somebody flew
that airplane into the WTC." When the second plane hit the WTC, then he knew it was a
terrorist attack. The question, "what do we do?" loomed large. White said, "There was no
direction. If you can find a shred of direction anywhere, in any of this, let me know."

On that day, the Command Center was in shock; it was surreal; the response was anger.
"How do we defend the United States?"

White and the other controllers went back to their US Air Force training- the Cold War
training. They stopped transatlantic flights first; then they landed everybody. You would
have been amazed in watching all the work in that room in trying to figure out how to
respond without prior knowledge or training.

Awareness of Hijackings

On 9/11, he started out the day in a staff meeting reviewing the events of the day before.
Ben Sliney came in off the floor and interrupted the meeting to say there was a report of a
hijacking and a flight attendant had been stabbed.

Within a matter of minutes, Tom Paccione came in and said he heard report of a
transmission, "we have other planes." At that point, the meeting broke up.

"Then things started moving way, way, way too fast."

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9/11 Working-level Employee

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We all got around the NOM desk - me, Ellen King, Linda Schuessler, Ben Sliney.

He thinks that the first plane had crashed at this point. CNN was not on the big screen for
the first crash, but soon after, they had it up.

There..was some difference of opinion that it was a commercial jet or a small aircraft.
The New York facilities reported that an aircraft had hit the World Trade Center.

John Azzarello talks about the ATC centers linking up to share information about the first
hijacking: New York, Boston, and Cleveland (among others). New York and Boston
lost radar on the plane almost simultaneously. This was all recorded at position 15 at the
Command Center -| |s line.

Do you personally equate the reported hijack with the crash at the WTC?

White is not sure that your brain allows you to equate those two things. It was a
"quantum leap." We had a suspicion, but we weren't ready to think about that at the
time.

He learned of the second one because they had CNN on and they saw it. He thinks that
he saw one of the playbacks on CNN moments after the impact. White thinks he knew
there were other problems in the system; he knew there was another plane with a
problem...

He thinks they received a call from Newark Tower that said, "Watch this," in reference to
Hight UAL 175.

White asked the Commission if Langley fighters were ever scrambled in response lo the
hijackings. He asked that question on 9/11, and it was never confirmed to him.

Commission staff and White spent some time listening to tapes... 9:02 a.m. is the time of
the second impact. After the second crash, White ends up on the phone with Jeff
Griffiths. The call began at the NOM position - line 34. He crossed the room to get
some information. Griffith called back and "threatened" White to stay on the line. He was
at the NTMO East position for the remainder of the call. There was a fifteen minute
interval of time between the calls.

White got emotional at this point of the interview.

The call was resumed on an admin phone. After the second crash, a white board went up
with a whole slew of flight numbers.

White confirmed the Commission's suspicion there was some hostility between the
controllers at the New York position 14 (located in close proximity to the East NTMO
position).

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Commission staff showed White a sketch of the Aviation Crisis Center on the 10th floor
or the FAA Headquarters. When the call first started, he thinks Griffith was in the AT
Suite. He thinks Griffith moved the call to the ACC at some point. He did not know what
person he was talking to at Headquarters most of the time.

Even though I technically "out-ranked" Ben Sliney, it was his room that day. He was in
charge of the room.

What were other supervisors doing?

Linda Schuessler was handling internal security issues, such as getting armed guards and
sending non-essential people home. She was also talking to people at Headquarters. She
was working with Ellen King at times.

Situational Awareness

Griffith wanted information that we weren't able to garner right away. There was all of
this "noise" in the system. Continental, Delta, United... Probably 60-percent of the
information he got was false. While they wanted information and they wanted it fast, he
wanted to give Headquarters good information. But he does not think they were ever
really successful in that there was no way to filter the reports they received.

Azzarello pointed out that the Command Center was on top of UAL 93 in terms of
pinpointing where it was and passing on that information quickly.

White agreed; he said that was the only plane they were on top of that morning. "The
American flight that hit the Pentagon - No." There was no advance information on that
to relay to Headquarters.

Azzarello points out that at 9:25 a.m., White tell Jeff Griffith about AAL 77
Dulles to LAX with flight level 3-5-0; the target was lost. He said Command Center had
received that information 10 minutes prior. He also reported that the Delta flight had
landed safely in Cleveland.

"There was always confusion for a good period of time what aircrafts went into what
buildings." They thought at one point the plane that went into the Pentagon was much
smaller; "an American Eagle or something."

Commission staff and White discuss Eastern Region's misinformation recorded on the
East NTMO line; as well as the misinformation documented in their logs from 9/11.
"There were clearly folks that were confused that day" about which planes hit where.

White remembers that it was very difficult to "wade through" all the information that
day.

UNCLASSIFIED
COMMISSION SENSITIVE
9/11 Working-level Employee

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, is '•••-.. Ifrom ATCSCC corrects and verifies the information about the four flights and
\e they hit,

At"9:34, Command Center reported to Headquarters the report of "a bomb on board"
\. '!;;s;; """••,,..

Qn the East.NTMO Ime, John White reports to Jeff Griffith at Headquarters that UAL 93
is 29 minutes o.ut of the Washington area, it turned around over Akron, Ohio, and is
tracking toward'Washington;! Itakesthe line. White asks him if they want to
, scramble aircrafts.r Isays hie does not know. White, says that is a decision that needs
. to be made in the next - ten minutes.T Iresoonds that everyone just left the room.
1 [tries to relay that information to someone else, most likel'yl | White
then tellsl jof another reported hijack - Delta 1989. Discussion on this flight ensues
and the conversation moves away from UAL 93.

Military Scrambles and UAL 93

At 9:54 a.m., White relays on the tape to'j that he received a report that
fighters were scrambled for the Washington and New York area. He tells the
Commission staff that he has no recollection where he received that information.

Miles Kara interjects known times of fighter scrambles on 9/11:

Otis fighters - 8:52 a.m.


Langley fighters - 9:24 a.m. (The fighters were scrambled because of a report that AAL
11 had not crashed into the WTC and was heading south toward Washington. So they
headed north to intercept it and actually headed out over the ocean until they were told
differently to turn and head to Washington. They capped DC at 9:52 a.m.)

On UAL 93, what prompted Langley to scramble was Boston Center telling NEADs that
AAL 11 was still airborne and heading south. The Langley fighters were turned because
of a report of a fast moving "VFR" heading toward the White House.

Headquarters and the people in the Crisis Center were told about UAL 93 by John White
and given ample time (29 minutes) to inform the military. However, NEADS did not
hear about it until the plane was already in the ground. The fighter pilots have told us
they were not aware of UAL 93. That message was lost somewhere at Headquarters.

John White was not aware that Headquarters did nothing with the information he reported
on UAL 93. He said "that is a shame."

John Azzarello Recap:

On AAL 11, Boston Center gave the military 8 minutes notice before it crashed. The call
was placed at 8:38 a.m.. This is after the loss of radio, loss of transponder, and the strange
transmissions heard on the frequency.
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On UAL 175, the military got a call on that a minute or two before impact. The
transponder code was changed at the time of impact of AAL 11. The controller was
handling both planes at the time, and he did not notice the change in code for 5 or 6
minutes. There was only 17 minutes between the first two crashes.

On AAL 77, no one gained awareness on where the plane was located. At 9:08 a.m.
Indianapolis Center reported it missing. Dulles TRACON finally picked it up again just
moments before it hit the Pentagon. No one knew at the time the plane was AAL 77. It
was referred to as the fast moving VFR. The state police at one point did report a crash
in the area of the Kentucky/Ohio border. That misinformation stems from the Indy Center
personnel asking the police to check for a crash.

On UAL 93, Command Center, as White says, was on top of it, yet the report of the
fourth hijacking never got to military assets.

Azzarello showed White the factual inaccuracies in the press release from FAA issued a
year after 9/11; and also referred him to erroneous timeline information presented by
DOD witnesses at the Commission's May 2003 hearing (they testified that the DOD was
notified about UAL 93 at 9:16 a.m. Commission staff has learned that the cockpit was
not breached by the terrorists until 9:28 a.m., as heard on the air traffic control
frequency).

He then told White that the first NEADS learned of a problem with UAL 93 was when it
reached out to Cleveland Center to follow up on Delta 1989 at 10:07 a.m. Cleveland
Center told NEADS about the "bomb on board" transmission heard from UAL 93 's
cockpit. The plane had crashed four minutes prior to the call.

The remainder of this interview was conducted off the record at the request of John
White.

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Written Statement of John S. White
to the National Commission on Terrorist Attacks
Upon the United States

On January 3 of this year, I retired from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) with
almost 38 years of government service. All of this service was spent in the field of air
traffic control. In preparing this statement, I did not seek or gain access to FAA files
concerning the events of September 11, 2001 and I do not have personal files concerning
the events of that day. On May 15,1 was interviewed by two members of the
Commission's staff. During the interview, I listened to recordings of coordination that
took place, on September 11, at the Air Traffic Control System Command Center
(ATCSCC), in Herndon, Virginia. In a letter dated May 27, 2004, the National
Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon the United States requested that I provide oral
and written testimony on three topics related to the events of September 11, 2001. The
responses to the three topics have been developed from my memories of the events. As
these topics are addressed, any opinions provided are my own and should not be taken as
official FAA positions.

My career as an air traffic controller began in 1965 when I joined the United States Air
Force. My duty assignments included Goodfellow Air Force Base, San Angelo, Texas
and Tan Son Nhut Air Base, Republic of Vietnam. In 1970,1 was hired by the FAA and
assigned to Los Angeles Center in Palmdale, California. During my 17 1/2 years at Los
Angeles Center, I held positions as an Air Traffic Control Specialist, Airspace and
Procedures Specialist, and Area Supervisor. In 1987,1 was transferred to the Air Traffic
Division in the Western-Pacific Region where I served for more than two years as a
Planning Specialist in the Planning, Requirements and Automation Branch. In 1989,1
was promoted to the position of Assistant Air Traffic Manager at the Honolulu Center
Radar Approach (CERAP). During my three years in Hawaii, I also served as the Air
Traffic Manager of both the Honolulu Air Traffic Control Tower and the Honolulu
CERAP.

In 1992,1 was promoted to the position of Assistant Program Manager at the Air
Traffic Control System Command Center located at FAA Headquarters in Washington
D.C. During the eleven years I worked at the ATCSCC, there were many organization
realignments and the ATCSCC was moved from FAA Headquarters to its present
location in Herndon Virginia. In this period of time, I held the positions of Assistant
Program Manager, Assistant Division Manager and Division Manager. On September
11, 2001,1 held the position of Manager of the System Efficiency Division.

The specific role played by the Air Traffic Control System Command Center (ATCSCC)
on 9/11 in the immediate response to the hijackings, placed in the general context of the
ATCSCC's function within FAA organizational structure.

On September 11,2001, the ATCSCC was the major organization in the Air Traffic
Tactical Operations (ATT) Program. Air Traffic Tactical Operations reported to the
Director of Air Traffic (AAT); which, in turn, reported to the Associate Administrator for
Air Traffic Services (ATS). ATS reported to the Deputy Administrator (ADA).

The primary operational purpose of the ATCSCC is to collaboratively manage the Air
Traffic Control System. Simply stated, the ATCSCC ensures that air traffic demand does
not exceed system capacity. Normally, this is accomplished through many avenues of
close coordination with system users and air traffic field facilities. The FAA
Administrator provides the ATCSCC the authority to manage the Air Traffic Control
System and to implement traffic management initiatives such as ground delay programs
and ground stops. This authority is described in
FAA Order 7210.3.

The ATCSCC is most effective when it collaboratively plans responses to system


constraints with all system stakeholders. On September 11, 2001, the surprise terrorist
attacks required the men and women of the ATCSCC to take a completely different
approach in responding to the attacks. The following actions were initiated:

In retrospect, armed with our current knowledge, the threat of September 11th is obvious.
However, as the attacks occurred on that day there was nothing obvious about the
magnitude of the threat or even who the perpetrators were. In an effort to ascertain the
scope of the attacks, personnel at the ATCSCC began to gather as much data as possible.
Soon a dry erase board was pressed into service and was used to track system anomalies.
As I recall, the list of flights of interest reached eleven. As data was collected it was
passed to FAA Headquarters. The initiative and professionalism displayed by the men
and women of the ATCSCC in this and all their efforts on that day were truly impressive.
After the first attack on the World Trade Center, ground stops were implemented for New
York Center and Boston Center airports. These ground stops were expanded in relatively
quick fashion and, ultimately, a national ground stop was implemented.

ATCSCC personnel took action to refuse entry into United States' airspace to all aircraft
that had departed international airports. The Canadian air traffic control system did a
marvelous job of supporting this action. Eventually, the ATCSCC gave the order to land
all airborne aircraft at the nearest airport. This was the first time in the history of air
traffic control in the United States that this order was given. The air traffic control
system responded flawlessly.

The above actions were taken in an attempt to disrupt the terrorists' plan of attack. We
knew a hijacker had inadvertently transmitted, "... .we have other planes." We did not
know how many.

Each business day, the ATCSCC operations and administrative managers conduct a
review of the previous day's operation. On September 11, 2001 this meeting was
convened at 0830 EOT. At the time the meeting began, the ATCSCC had already
received reports of a hijacked aircraft. Subsequent, reports resulted in the termination of
the meeting and the management team moving to the operations room.
The Manager of the System Efficiency Division has no routine operational role in the
ATCSCC operational quarters. On the morning of September 11th management
personnel assumed roles designed to assist operations personnel respond to the national
emergency. Sometime after the managers had conducted a brief meeting in the
operations room, at which items such as internal security and the status of contract and
non-essential personnel were discussed, I received a telephone call from the Deputy
Director of Air Traffic. I took this call on the administrative phone at the first level
supervisor position in the East area of specialization. During this call, I was ordered to
remain on the line to facilitate instant communication. I remained at this ad hoc
communication position for approximately five hours. I received no information as to
where the "hotline" I was monitoring terminated. Initially, I believed it was connected to
a conference room in the Air Traffic suite in FAA Headquarters.
When I began to exchange information on this line with ATS personnel, I believed the
"hotline" had been moved to a conference room close to the FAA Headquarters
Operations Center.

During the time I worked this ad hoc communications position, I tried to provide
headquarters with information that was as complete and as accurate as possible.
Since much of the information the ATCSCC received that day was inaccurate, this was a
difficult task. As I recall, at least twice during the time of the four hijackings, the
ATCSCC received direction to take actions that had already been initiated by the
ATCSCC. A myriad of issues were handled on this line.

Initially, the information concerning the aircraft of interest were predominant.


As time passed, humanitarian and VIP flights into New York and Washington were
coordinated on this line as well as special waivers for certain air carrier international
flights.

Until my May 15th interview with two members of the Commission's staff, I believed
that, on September 11, 2001, the appropriate coordination between the
FAA and the Department of Defense concerning the hijacked aircraft had been
accomplished.

The only manner in which I can address this topic is to write how I believe coordination
should have taken place on September 11. The hijackings should have been reported by
the controllers up their management chain to the regional operations centers. The
regional operations centers should have passed the information to the Washington
Operations Center. The Operations Center should have advised the FAA official
assigned the responsibility of coordinating military assistance. I cannot say that during
the attacks of 9/11 my personal understanding of the process was crystal clear, but I did
know that the request for military assistance had to come from headquarters. During my
May 15th interview, I listened to coordination concerning United 93, in which I asked if
headquarters had made a decision to request the launch of fighter aircraft.
There was a clear expectation that the responsibility for this action belonged in FAA
Headquarters.
I do not recall any ATCSCC coordination that took place with the military during the
hijackings. This does not mean that none took place. The Central Altitude
Reservation Function (CARF) and the Air Traffic Services Cell (ATSC) are both housed
at the ATCSCC and both have communication links with the military. In fact, the ATSC
is staffed by military reserve personnel. It would be foolish to think that no
communications took place with their military counterparts during the hijackings.
Additionally, traffic management specialists may have contacted military organizations
with whom he or she routinely worked. With the exception of being advised by a traffic
management specialist of the location of an aircraft carrier, I have no personal
recollection of ever having knowledge any of these communications. After the last
hijacking had been terminated, I recall numerous calls from NORAD, various air defense
sectors and other military entities concerning the access to and control of airspace.

On the evening of September 11, 2001, like most Americans, I experienced a full gamut
of emotions. I felt a deep sadness for those lost in the four aircraft and for those who lost
their lives at the Pentagon and the World Trade Center.
I was angry that terrorists had been able to use the air traffic control system to carry out
their attacks. I was anxious about the safety of my family and for the security of the
United States. Contrarily, I felt a tremendous pride, in particular, for the performance of
the people at the Air Traffic Control System Command Center and, in general, for the
entire air traffic control system.

During a time of crisis, the controllers made the difficult look easy and served America
well. Nothing in the intervening months and years of investigation has changed that
feeling of pride.
/9/11 Personal Privacy

Thomas H. Kean May 27,2004


CHAIR

Lee H. Hamilton
VICE CHAIR
Mr. John White
Richard Ben-Veniste

Fred F. Fielding

Jamie S. Gorelick Dear Mr. White:


Slade Gorton The National Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon the United States will
Bob Kerrey hold a public hearing on June 17,2004, in Washington, DC on the topic of
National Crisis Management. You are invited to testify at these proceedings
John F. Lehman at 9:15 - 11:00 a.m. on Thursday, June 17.
Timothy j. Roemer
This session will be the seventh and last hearing in the Commission's 2004
James R. Thompson investigative hearing schedule, which will collectively advance the
Commission's efforts to produce an authoritative account of the facts of
Philip D. Zelikow circumstances surrounding the September 11,2001, terrorist attacks. At this
DIRECTOR hearing, the Commission's objective is to present the definitive account of our
nation's response to the terrorist attacks on 9/11. Aspects of the hearing will
specifically address the response of the military, the Federal Aviation
Administration (FAA), and senior levels of the Executive branch.

We look forward to your testimony on the following topics:

• The specific role played by the Air Traffic Control Systems Command
Center (ATCSCC) on 9/11 in the immediate response to the hijackings,
placed in the general context of the ATCSCC's function within FAA
organizational structure;

• A description of your responsibilities and actions taken at the ATCSCC on


the morning of 9/11; and

• Your understanding of coordination and communications that took place


between the ATCSCC, other FAA entities, and military entities in
response to the hijackings.

Given time constraints, you will not be asked to give introductory oral
testimony, as others on your panel have been asked to give a brief opening
statement. However, we ask that you submit a comprehensive written
testimony and provide your statement via e-mail to Lisa Sullivan at
lsullivan@9-l lcommission.gov by 9:00 a.m. on June 9,2004. Your full

301 7th Street SW, Room 5125 26 Federal Plaza


Washington, DC 20407 Suite 13-100
T 202.331.4060 F 202.296.5545 New York, NY 10278
www.9-11 commission.gov T 212.264.1505 F 212.264.1595
Mr. John White
May 27,2004
Page 2

statement will be made part of the record and carefully studied by the
Commission. All witnesses at this Commission hearing will be asked to
testify under oath.

Please contact John Azzarello at (212) 264-1588 with any questions you may
have. We look forward to your participation in this important public forum.

With best regards,

Thomas H. Kean Lee H. Hamilton


Chair Vice Chair

cc: Dan Levin, U.S. Department of Justice