On 9/11, the rules of engagement (ROE) for NEADS changed from peacetime ROE – identification and diversion of peculiar aircraft – to wartime ROE, i.e. shootdown authority, as detailed in the timeline below.
09:19:44 First mentioning of the possibility that NORAD might be forced to shoot down a hijacked plane by Mission Crew Commander (MCC) Maj. Kevin Nasypany [NEADS Tapes MCC Op, ch. 2]
My recommendation if we have to take anybody out, large aircraft, we use the AIM-9s in the face. […] And that’s my recommendation from earlier tests. Okay?
09:36:38 Maj. Nasypany asks Col. Marr for AFIO (Authorization for Interceptor Operations, when the military takes control of the airspace) for the Langley Fighters [NEADS Tapes RM 112, ch. 8]
Authorizing AFIO, right now? You want to authorize it?
09:37:14 Weapons Controller acknowledges AFIO for the Langley fighters [NEADS Tapes RM 112, ch. 8]
Ma’am we are going to AFIO right now with Quit 25 and they are going direct Washington.
At 09:39, the Langley fighter Quit 25 changes his mode 3 code to 7777, the AFIO code, according to the RADES radar data. Up to this point, AFIO is the maximum form of engagement allowed to NEADS, with the peacetime ROE of IDing and, if necessary, diverting aircraft.
At 10:07, FAA Baltimore does not recognize Quit 27 as a friendly aircraft, resulting in a false alarm. The mission for the Langley fighters again is defined as interception only, as communicated between Master Sergeant Steve Citino, MCC Maj. Kevin Nasypany, Senior Commander (SD) Maj. James Fox and Dean Eckman, the pilot of Quit 25.
10:07:23 Peacetime ROE detailed [NEADS Tapes TT TK, ch. 14]
Quit 25: Baltimore is saying something about an aircraft over the White House. Any words?
Citino: Negative. Stand by. Do you copy that, SD? Center said there’s an aircraft over the White House. Any words?
Fox: MCC, we’ve got an aircraft reported over the White House.
Nasypany: Intercept and divert that aircraft away from there.
Citino: Quit 2-5, mission is intercept aircraft over White House. Use FAA for guidance.
Fox: Divert the aircraft away from the White House. Intercept and divert it.
Citino: Quit 2-5, divert the aircraft from the White House.
Quit 25: Divert the aircraft.
10:10:36 Nasypany explicitely denies any shootdown authority and defines the current NEADS mission as “ID type, tail” [NEADS Tapes MCC Op, ch. 2]
Nasypany: Negative, negative clearance to shoot. […] God dammit. Foxy?
Fox: I’m not really worried about code words.
Nasypany: Fuck the code words. That’s perishable information. Negative clearance to fire. ID type, tail. Hey, let your guys know also.
The authority to shoot down hostile aircraft would have to come from the president to NORAD, from NORAD to CONR, and from CONR to NEADS, SEADS and WADS. At 10:11, WADS is asking CONR via NORAD chat log about the ROE; CONR confirms peacetime ROE at 10:16.
10:11:21 WADS to CONR: What ROE are we working under?
10:14:46 CONR to WADS/SEADS: report status. Bring up with live missiles. Cleared to load slammers on all ASA jets
10:16:39 CONR to all sectors: Peacetime ROE still.
10:31:01 CONR finally relays shootdown authority to NORAD sectors via NORAD chat log
Vice President has cleared to us to intercept tracks of interest and shoot them down if they do not respond, per CONR CC
10:32 NEADS receives the log entry giving shootdown authorization [NEADS Tapes MCC Op, ch. 2]
Maj. Steve Ovens: You need to read this. Region Commander has declared that we can shoot down tracks if they are not responding to our, uh, directions.
Nasypany: Ok. I’ll pass that to weapons.
Nasypany: The Region Com, the Region Commander has declared that we can shoot down aircraft that do not respond to our direction. Copy that?
Fox: Copy that sir.
Nasypany: So if you’re trying to divert somebody and he won’t divert –
Major Fox: DO [Director of Operations] is saying no.
Nasypany: No? It came over the chat. Foxy, you got a conflict on that, you got a conflict on that direction?
Fox: Right now, no, but –
Ovens: Hey –
Ovens: You read that from the Vice President, right? The Vice President has cleared –
Nasypany: Vice President has cleared us to intercept tracks –
Ovens: Of interest –
Nasypany: And shoot them down if they do not respond, per CONR CC.
10:42:49 CONR confirms shootdown authority via NORAD chat log
Clearance to shoot from Vice President is to save lives on the ground if A/C [aircraft] do not respond