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The following excerpt includes all relevant material in the CBS NEWS SPECIAL REPORT, "Aftermath of and investigation into attacks on World Trade Center and the Pentagon," September 12, 2001, 12 noon ET.
[Posted 4 January 2002]
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[This transcript is Copyright 2001 CBS, Inc. Posted for Fair Use Only.]

RATHER: Let's check in with retired US Army Colonel Mitch Mitchell, our old friend from the Persian Gulf War who was near the Pentagon when the plane went down yesterday. Colonel, always good to see you. What was it like?

Colonel MITCH MITCHELL (Retired, US Army): Nice to see you, Dan. It was a tragic event, Dan. We saw the last seven seconds of Flight 77. We were driving south on Route 395, which butts up against the Pentagon. We were exactly adjacent to the Pentagon, when I looked out in front of me and saw the American Airlines plane coming right across the--the highway directly in front of us, at a distance of about 100 feet and an altitude of no higher than 20 feet. We thought it was going to hit us. All I had time to say was 'It's going to hit the Pentagon.' We turned and looked and watched it slam into the building. It was a terrible thing to see, Dan. I wish I'd never seen it.

RATHER: Well, Colonel, one question has been asked me and I don't have any answer, and perhaps you do. These hijacked aircraft were in the air for quite a while, they made unusual turns, to say the least. Would--why doesn't the Pentagon have the kind of protection that they can get a fighter--intercepter aircraft up, and if someone is going to plow an aircraft into the Pentagon, that we have at least some--some line of defense?

Col. MITCHELL: This is one of the most difficult attacks to defend against, Dan. Even if we scrambled the fighters, it takes time for them to get in the air and get to the location where the attack is going to occur, and they certainly didn't give us much time after they left Dulles Airport. The point is, though, that the air traffic controllers have to determine that there really is an emergency and it takes some time for them to discern exactly what the situation is, especially when they're dealing with aircraft that are handled by apparently professional pilots who know how to turn off transponders. They're not sure what they have in the air exactly, and so until they can understand what the situation is, they're not going to scramble the military. Only then can the military be effective. And I might add that if they had been called in to shoot down this plane, they would have had to shoot it down at ground level and caused a number of civilian casualties on the way into the Pentagon. Probably the lesser of the two evils, but it was a lose-lose situation.

RATHER: Colonel, thank you very much, and we'll be talking to you as the day and the evening goes along.

[End of Excerpt]

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