America's Book of Secrets (2012) s01e11 Episode Script

The Pentagon

NARRATOR: It is the epicenter of America's military operations a five-sided fortress with a single purpose: to defend the United States and its citizens.
But behind the concrete walls and reinforced windows of the Pentagon are secrets, secrets so guarded RAYMOND DUBOIS: The country's most sensitive secrets are held within this building and within certain minds.
NARRATOR: so incredible ALLYN KILSHEIMER: She crawled out with people hanging onto her legs to get out.
NARRATOR: so alarming JAMES RYAN: We are already experiencing our 9/11 in cyberspace.
NARRATOR: that they must be kept hidden from the public until now.
There are those who believe in the existence of a book.
A book that contains the most highly guarded secrets of the United States of America.
A book whose very existence is known to only a select few.
But if such a book exists, what would it contain? Secret histories? Secret plans? Secret lies? Does there really exist America's Book of Secrets? NARRATOR: It proudly stands on the west bank of the Potomac River on the edge of Washington, DC, a building; an institution; a symbol of America's military might the Pentagon.
Here, headquartered under one roof, is the Department of Defense, the Joint Chiefs of Staff and the five branches of the U.
S.
military.
Commands issued from behind these walls direct the actions of U.
S.
forces around the world.
DUBOIS: The Pentagon is the heart, the soul, the brain of our national military community.
OLIVER NORTH: It does house the entire top of the defense establishment of the United States.
It is regarded as an icon, if you will, for enemies and allies.
GENERAL WESLEY CLARK: I was always excited in the Pentagon.
It was always a place where things could happen or be made to happen, or (laughs) they happened to you.
But it was never dull.
There was always adventure.
NARRATOR: Perhaps most famous for its unique design, the Pentagon is the largest low-rise office building in the world.
It occupies more than six million square feet of floor space and spans an area equal to five city blocks.
Called "The Puzzle Palace" by insiders, the labyrinth of hallways and corridors that run through the building measure 17-and-a-half miles in length.
Yet despite its vast size, the Pentagon's unusual design allows for quick access to any of its five equal sides.
DALESSANDRO: This design allows someone to get from any point in the building, the furthest spot you might imagine, from corridor ten all the way around to corridor two, three or five in seven minutes or less.
NARRATOR: But for many, the Pentagon is much more than a monumental building, it is a living entity.
JOHN JESTER: It's one of the few buildings that you could say that speaks.
You see it in the newspaper quite often: "The Pentagon said" SHANE HARRIS: If there were an American Book of Secrets, I think what it would say about the Pentagon is this really is where the nation's defenses really begin.
NARRATOR: Approximately 23,000 people, both military and civilian, work at the Pentagon every day.
The building is fully operational around the clock, and includes an infrastructure of transportation, food services and retail shops enlisted to support the enormous staff.
But what is the secret to keeping the Pentagon operational 24/7? DR.
ERIN MAHAN: I think what would surprise most people-- and it certainly did me when I came to work at the Pentagon-- is that it's not just an office building.
It's really a city unto itself.
The amenities that are available, I doubt very many people realize that there's a drugstore, there's a shoe store, there's a Best Buy.
It really is a secret city.
NARRATOR: The daily operation of this unofficial city are handled by a civilian administrator appointed by the Secretary of Defense, a role insiders refer to as "the mayor.
" DUBOIS: When you have 23,000 people who come to work here every day, probably another 3,000 to 5,000 visitors every day, you are essentially managing a small city.
We have hospitals, clinics, restaurants, we have a Pentagon conference center and library, we have the Pentagon athletic center, we have police force, a firefighting unit.
This is quite a complex organism, as all cities are.
NARRATOR: For those who work at the Pentagon, the main entrance to the building is on on the southeast side.
But for the military's top brass and the nation's leaders, there are special VIP entrances.
DUBOIS: We're at the Grand Ceremonial River Entrance to the Pentagon.
This is the entrance where the Secretary of Defense goes to work every morning.
That's his office up there.
This is where the President of the United States comes when he visits the Pentagon, as well as other ministers of defense and chiefs of defense staff from around the world greeted in a parade on that parade field there.
Called the River Entrance because, of course, there is the Potomac River.
This is the second ceremonial entrance of the Pentagon called the Mall Entrance.
It's the entrance for the Secretary of the Army and the Secretary of the Navy, whose offices are behind me on the third and fourth floors.
NARRATOR: With its five sides, five floors and five concentric rings, the original plans for a military headquarters were nearly scrapped in favor of something more traditional.
VOGEL: The five-sided shape of the Pentagon is an accident of history.
The initial spot that they'd chosen for the building up near Memorial Bridge was five-sided.
It eventually ended up moving to a different spot of land that was not five-sided.
So when they moved the building from the first site to the second site, they could have changed the five sides.
But the architects had come to realize a five-sided shape worked better than a big rectangle.
NARRATOR: Although the Pentagon was first conceived as a temporary structure, were the original plans redrawn and the design rapidly repurposed for a more secret reason? Why was the construction of the Pentagon begun on September 11, 1941, three months before the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor? Were the nation's leaders secretly preparing America for war? A war that they knew was inevitable? VOGEL: The War Department was scattered in 17 buildings all around Washington.
It was horribly decentralized.
And General George C.
Marshall, the army Chief of Staff, gave orders to his chief of construction to come up with some sort of plan that would allow them to consolidate this War Department.
President Roosevelt, when he approved the plans for this huge building in secret, had a vision of this building being used after the war as an archives for all the paperwork that was filling up Washington.
NARRATOR: December 7, 1941.
The Japanese bomb Pearl Harbor.
PRESIDENT ROOSEVELT: A date which will live in infamy.
NARRATOR: The United States goes to war, and the pace of construction of the Pentagon picked up.
A centralized location for the War Department now became a matter of national urgency and public pride.
DR.
ALFRED GOLDBERG: At that point, they had about 4,000 people working on it up until Pearl Harbor.
When Pearl Harbor came, all stops were off.
PRESIDENT ROOSEVELT: We will gain the inevitable triumph, so help us God.
(applause) GOLDBERG: The sky was the limit at that point.
More people were added so that, at the peak, it reached about 15,000 people.
VOGEL: The Pentagon was built in a race against time.
The architects and draftsmen were, literally, sometimes just one step ahead of the pile drivers.
There was this incredible surge of patriotism and panic to get this, uh, building ready.
NARRATOR: Completed in only 16 months, the home of the War Department has remained the central command post of the U.
S.
military for nearly 70 years.
DALESSANDRO: We're standing in the center courtyard of the Pentagon.
Behind me, they erected a gazebo.
And you can see it in its present iteration.
It's a snack bar.
And on top of that gazebo is a little owl.
When the people were here during the Cold War period-- and, actually, my service began in the Pentagon during that period-- this area quickly gained the nickname of Ground Zero.
People that worked in the Pentagon were convinced that there was a nuclear bomb with its crosshairs right on that owl at the gazebo.
So I have to tell you, as a young officer working here, as I worked my way through the corridors, sometimes I took a shortcut through the courtyard.
And I have to tell you, when I got to the center, the hair on the back of my neck stood up.
I was sure that a nuclear round was going to drop on me at any moment.
NARRATOR: But what military strategies and war games are played out at a 21st century Pentagon? HARRIS: Much of it is really an office building.
A lot of the work that goes on there is, you know, fairly routine, fairly mundane.
But a lot of the more secretive things, a lot of the planning, a lot of the operational elements, intelligence analysis, the high-level meetings, strategy, all of that is going to be well out of public view.
But it is all happening right there.
RICK NEWMAN: Probably more than any place else in the United States, the Pentagon is a clearinghouse for every important decision that gets made in the U.
S.
military.
NARRATOR: As the home to America's military masterminds, the Pentagon has also proven to be a five-sided target for terrorism.
NORTH: It's a target because it's the symbol of American military power.
And that five-sided building does have the home of the Department of Defense and every senior service leader of the armed forces of the United States.
NARRATOR: Coming up: JESTER: So you had thousands of gallons of fuel that were exploding and sending fireballs down the hallway, just blowing offices up.
JOHN YATES: And then there was just this intense heat, like nothing I've ever felt before.
NARRATOR: September 11, 2001.
Al-Qaeda operatives execute a terrorist plot to attack the U.
S.
using commercial aircraft as their weapons.
Their targets: places of strategic economic, political and military importance.
YATES: On the morning of September 11, I was just going around a normal day, uh, when about, I don't know, 9:15-ish or so, one of my coworkers came over to me and asked me if I knew what was going on in New York.
And, uh, so I said, uh, "No.
" She said, "Well, you have to come see.
" SAJEEL AHMED: We were watching what was going on in New York at that time, so we knew something was going on.
(siren wailing) NARRATOR: Amidst the chaos, American Airlines Flight 77, which had taken off from Dulles International Airport earlier that morning, had been hijacked over Ohio.
What those at the military headquarters could not predict was that the Boeing 757 was heading straight for the Pentagon.
NEWMAN: As it was getting close to the Pentagon, it actually did a 360.
So it flew basically over the Pentagon, flew around once, and while it was doing that, it was descending.
JESTER: I just walked in the door to my office.
It was like a low rumbling noise for a few seconds.
And then the the light fixtures in the in the room were just vibrating.
NARRATOR: At 9:37 a.
m.
, the plane carrying six crew, 53 passengers and five hijackers hit the western wall of the Pentagon.
The aircraft tore through the Pentagon at an estimated 530 miles per hour.
With thousands of gallons of fuel onboard, it exploded on impact.
In an instant, the western side of the building was engulfed in flames.
YATES: I'm standing there when there was just this tremendous explosion, like nothing I'd ever heard before.
I remember a ball of fire coming from behind me and from my left as it rolled across the ceiling.
And then there was just this this, uh, intense, uh, heat, like nothing I've ever I've ever felt before.
And I had no idea what was going on.
DUBOIS: This building shook.
This mammoth hunk of concrete and steel absolutely shook with the impact of that airplane.
JESTER: The plane was boring through three of the five rings.
It was just basically shredded by the concrete columns.
So you had thousands of gallons of fuel that were exploding at the same time and sending fireballs down the hallway, just blowing offices up.
YATES: I remember being blown through the air, and I didn't know where I landed.
Didn't have a clue.
It's like somebody picked up, uh, the room and just shook it like a dollhouse.
So I just started reaching out with my hands 'cause I can't see anything, and, uh, everything I touched burned me.
Even the floor was hot from the fire.
I just started crawling around, trying to find my way out.
NARRATOR: As firefighters battled to control the raging inferno, rescue workers raced to find survivors amid the maze of rubble.
KILSHEIMER: There were guys that went in, got blown over by a fireball and got up burned, and went to drag people out.
There was a lady who was safe and went back in to get people and got burned, and she crawled out with people hanging on to her legs to get out.
There were people that saw people banging on glass to try and get out, and they went in to try to help them, but there were insufficient tools, and they used their bare hands.
DUBOIS: Secretary Rumsfeld came all the way to the other side of the building, much to the chagrin of his security detail, and helped pick up litters and gurneys.
And it was pretty extraordinary.
JESTER: It was one of the greatest sights in the world, was watching the workers who had evacuated, then go back to the building to rescue their fellow employees.
And, in many cases, they would just have to yell to them, you know, "Follow my voice," because they couldn't see them.
YATES: And this voice said, go out through this one particular door, which was at the far end of the room.
And I really wasn't sure where I was at the time, but I just started crawling towards that voice.
And I knew I was going in the right direction because the farther I crawled, the less hot it got.
So I just crawled until I ran headfirst into a wall, and I just turned right and made my made my way through all of the little aisleways and everything until I got out into the corridor.
I was standing in the middle of five people, and I'm the only one that walked out.
NARRATOR: Firefighters and emergency workers battled heavy smoke and intense heat as they began the search for the estimated 800 personnel who worked in the area.
NEWMAN: It was very difficult for this fire to vent because of the unusual structure of going into such a wide and such a low building.
The fire in many parts of the building, for hours, was hotter than firefighting equipment is designed to handle.
Usually it's very easy to persuade people leave a fire and stay away from a fire, but at the Pentagon, firefighters encountered lots of service members who were determined to get back in.
They treated this like it was a war.
Had the fire commanders had their way, they would have ordered everybody out of the National Military Command Center, but they got into a minor standoff with officers there who said, "We're not leaving.
The nation's under attack.
It is imperative to keep this keep this part of the Pentagon operating.
" So, firefighters had to do do something that they're just not accustomed to doing, which is putting out a fire in one part of the building while keeping another part of the building operational.
NARRATOR: But just how perilous was the situation inside the building? And what dangers did the destruction really pose to national security? Only a few knew the true extent of the damage caused by the attack: The Navy Command Center, a critical intelligence facility, had been completely obliterated by the fuselage.
The National Military Command Center was untouched, but it was in jeopardy as the blazing fire threatened to shut it down.
To make matters worse, a shift in the weather would fuel the fire to an even greater threat.
KILSHEIMER: It was very windy, and all of a sudden, I looked up, and I saw flames shooting out of the roof.
NEWMAN: The fire commanders started to rush crews up to the top, up to the roof of the the Pentagon.
So, they mounted kind of an all-hands effort to get that fire out on the roof, because now this had become a national security issue to them.
NARRATOR: The fire was moving towards satellite and computer equipment on the roof.
If it continued to spread, the Pentagon would lose a vital communications link to troops and commanders throughout the world.
But how could an attack such as 9/11 affect the Pentagon's top-secret military operations? DUBOIS: The National Military Command Center is a steel box in which you have all the sensitive communications that reach around the globe.
And 24 by 7, 365 days a year, it is manned.
And from that command center, the President of the United States will be receiving, as does the Secretary of Defense, the information with respect to the crisis of the moment, and only the President and the Secretary of Defense can push the button.
NMAN: It needed to remain functioning for the sake of keeping the U.
S.
military in operation, and things like the cooling system in the Pentagon, the electrical system.
If the fire interfered with those things, the first thing it would do is, it would shut down all the computers.
Without computers, there's no connectivity and without communications, you can't run a military.
VOGEL: The building operations people realized that they needed to keep water pressure in the building up so that the fire department would be able to fight the fire, and some of the the building operation people risked their lives to close off pipes even as smoke was pouring down into some of those areas, and so that they could keep the command centers operating despite the danger from the fire and smoke.
NARRATOR: With critical military missions underway around the world, in the midst of the rescue efforts, the Pentagon's Security Service was urgently retrieving top-secret information now lying exposed in the wreckage.
But what vital military information were they trying to save? NEWMAN: The Security Service was just trying to just basically retrieve all the safes and filing cabinets that contain classified information.
Navy SEALs, for instance, said "Listen, we need to get back to our office, because we've got stuff in there that basically entails how we operate, intelligence that our troops have gathered out in the field, all sorts of things that are essential to the functioning of the Navy SEALs, and it's sitting up there in an office that nobody's guarding right now.
Firefighters who were in there said they saw documents labeled top-secret literally floating on wafts of smoky air.
NARRATOR: When the smoke cleared, 189 lives were lost and hundreds were injured, and neither the Pentagon nor the United States would ever be the same.
Coming up KILSHEIMER: We were gonna show these terrorists what Americans could do when you came and did what they did to us.
NEWMAN: New security features are not public because they could give future terrorists ideas about how to attack the Pentagon again.
NARRATOR: September 12, 2001.
As the sun rose over the Pentagon on the morning after the terrorist attack, the first of many extraordinary events began to unfold.
JESTER: The next day was a very unusual sight watching people coming from the Pentagon City Metro Station, walking to work, and the Pentagon is still on fire, but people were coming to work.
DUBOIS: Every person who worked here came to work.
This building was still burning.
This side of the building had had collapsed.
Everyone came to work the next day.
NARRATOR: 48 hours after the impact, firefighters finally got the blaze under control, and the recovery effort could begin.
GOLDBERG: It took them a couple of days to get the roof fire under control.
Eventually they did.
It was a very hazardous, very difficult thing to do.
NARRATOR: Rows C, D and E of the area known as "Wedge One" were destroyed by the impact and resulting fires.
But with an average daily work force of 25,000 people at the Pentagon, how was it possible there weren't more casualties? KILSHEIMER: The Pentagon was undergoing a renovation program, and Wedge One was just being completed.
Had these planes hit a month either way, there would have been a lot more people killed because there would have been a lot more people in the building.
VOGEL: Where the aircraft hit was the only part of the building that had fire sprinklers throughout the section.
It was the only part of the the building that had blast-resistant windows.
It was the only part of the building that had structural support.
It was the only part that had this Kevlar-type skin that would protect against fragments of glass and stone.
NARRATOR: Overnight, the existing renovation work turned to reconstruction.
But what was the secret behind the rapid rebuild of the Pentagon? NEWMAN: It was considered a mission-critical thing to get the Pentagon back online, not to mention an extremely important symbolic act to completely rebuild the Pentagon and make it better than it ever was.
VOGEL: The workers themselves came up with this plan to restore the building by the the first anniversary of the attacks, so within one year, they would have the building back to its original state, and they called it the Phoenix Project.
KILSHEIMER: It was a huge matter of pride and patriotism for everybody there.
We had a total, at times, of 4,000 people working there.
The way the majority of those people felt was that we were gonna show people like these terrorists what Americans could do when you came and did what they did to us.
A lot of people were working the whole 20 or 22 hours.
I would leave for two or three hours, I'd come back, and there were guys sleeping on the floor or the heliport, on the concrete, so they could talk me as soon as I got back, about things.
NARRATOR: But while working around the clock helped speed up their schedule, it was not enough to make their self-imposed, one-year deadline.
So what unconventional measures did they take to finish even sooner than they had originally hoped? KILSHEIMER: The first thing we did was tell everybody what to build that day and follow it up with drawings, instead of doing drawings first.
There was one particular spot, supposed to be a wall and then some pipes in the wall.
Well, the pipes were going first, the wall wasn't ready yet, so the guys ran their pipes and they had to build the wall around the pipes, which isn't the way it usually happens.
It's just everybody stepped out of box at all times.
NARRATOR: In addition to repairing the building, new, high-security safeguards were also constructed-- ones that would prevent or at least provide greater protection for the Pentagon staff in case of a similar attack or worse.
DUBOIS: We moved Route 110 further to the east.
We reinforced the west side of the building.
We got the berm over there and the blast wall.
Suffice it to say there are other defenses that are now in place that protect this building, and were a plane to enter into restricted airspace and be determined to be hostile, I don't think it would make it to this building.
NEWMAN: They certainly incorporated new security features into the building.
Many of those are not public, and they shouldn't be public, because they could give future terrorists ideas about how to attack the Pentagon again.
LT.
COLONEL OLIVER NORTH: What you can see at the Pentagon is the direct affect of what happened on 9/11/01, and the reality that there are people-- bad people-- who would do great damage if they could.
NARRATOR: Inside the Pentagon, reconstruction also extended to other areas of the building-- areas hidden from the public-- and built according to top-secret specifications.
SAJEEL AHMED: There are a number of areas which need to support the mission itself, including the operation centers and the regular tenant spaces itself.
That's all I can go there.
GENERAL WESLEY CLARK: We don't always know about those.
And if we knew about them, we probably couldn't tell you everything about them.
NARRATOR: Wedge One renovations covered an area of one million square feet of space.
Building improvements included blast-resistant windows and a new communications infrastructure.
The Phoenix Project finished one month ahead of schedule-- a fitting end to what is globally considered to be the most incredible reconstruction project in history.
KILSHEIMER: We actually rebuilt the building and had butts in chairs on September 11, 2002.
I don't think there's a person that worked on that site that wouldn't say that was the most important thing in at least their construction life.
MAN: The Pentagon Memorial: We claim this ground in remembrance of the events of September 11, 2001.
DUBOIS: The steps directly behind me are where the impact took place.
And, of course, the blackened limestone block, now etched with that fateful day, put into place after Project Phoenix concluded one year to the day later, September 11, NARRATOR: Coming up DUBOIS: Some of the country's most sensitive secrets, as you can understand, are held within this building.
HARRIS: If I had to put money on which agency has the most secrets, I would say it's the NSA.
National Security Agency is the government's eavesdropper.
NARRATOR: In the wake of the 9/11 attack, improved security was initiated to both the physical structure and the surrounding area of the Pentagon.
But within the walls of the military compound, security measures were also upgraded.
HARRIS: Prior to 9/11, the Pentagon did have essentially a police force, a security guard force, if you like.
After 9/11, that group became a new unit, the Pentagon Force Protection Agency.
NEWMAN: The Pentagon Force Protection Agency, otherwise known as the Pentagon police, are an annoyance to everybody who works there, because they make it hard to get in.
If your badge is not in order, they won't let you in.
But they're extremely important to keeping the Pentagon secure.
JESTER: The Pentagon uses the most up-to-date technology in terms of access control systems.
All the different technologies are constantly changing.
They've gone to retina scan, hand geometry scans, to all kinds of devices.
NARRATOR: The Pentagon Force Protection Agency is tasked with being "an all-threats agency.
" In addition to security, the agency is trained to handle chemical, biological, radiological and even nuclear threats.
JESTER: I developed a motto which is "We Protect Those Who Protect Our Nation," It makes the organization feel that we're doing our part in the overall mission of the Department of Defense.
NARRATOR: But beyond the threat of another physical attack, the Pentagon must maintain the highest level of security to protect the nation's greatest secret-keepers, who work deep inside the compound.
DUBOIS: Some of the country's most sensitive secrets, as you can understand, are held within this building.
And, in some cases, they're held within certain minds.
HARRIS: The Defense Intelligence Agency, DIA, is one of the other, sort of primary-- the big intelligence agencies within the intelligence community and it's really focused on missions pertaining to the Defense Department's business, so, fighting war.
And, really, in the past ten years, particularly in Iraq and Afghanistan, DIA has been the place to produce or to handle the intelligence that goes out to soldiers in the field.
NARRATOR: But the DIA is not the only information-gathering agency housed at the Pentagon.
The biggest and most covert intelligence unit, the National Security Agency, also operates within the military headquarters.
HARRIS: National Security Agency, or the NSA, is the government's eavesdropper.
It collects what's called Signals Intelligence, which means phone calls, fax transmissions, e-mails, text messages.
If it goes over a wire, or over a wavelength in the air, NSA grabs it.
They have a global system for electronic intelligence collection that includes satellites wire taps monitoring of Internet networks.
Their job is if it's electronic, if it's data, and it's moving around, they grab it.
If I had to put money on which agency has the most secrets, I would say it's the NSA.
The NSA is certainly collecting the most information.
NARRATOR: But when secret information must be shared inside the Pentagon, what special protocols are put into action? And, how is sensitive information stored inside the Pentagon kept safe, and accessed only on a "need to know" basis? DUBOIS: Paper documents are transferred by hand by a cleared person, in some cases, inside a locked briefcase.
YATES: In a building where 23,000 people work, there are a lot of secret documents.
And part of my job is to keep those documents safe and secure, and out of the hands of people that would do our nation harm.
There's different classifications for different types of information.
And based upon your need to know and your background investigation level, you get access.
Your duties have to require you to have access in order to get it accomplished.
DUBOIS: There are levels of classified documents from "for official use only" all the way up to "top secret" SCI clearances-- Special Compartmentalized Intelligence.
NARRATOR: Conversations about classified information are strictly forbidden in the Pentagon.
But there is one place that the military's ultimate top secrets can be discussed openly-- in the steel box offices known as SCIFs.
NEWMAN: There are lots and lots of classified spaces inside the Pentagon.
Some of them are known as Sensitive Compartmented Information Facilities.
The acronym for that is SCIF.
They're not just places with limited access, where people are cleared to discuss classified information.
They're actually hardened against electronic eavesdropping.
So there might be wire structure built around those cages.
There might be materials in there that are intended to defeat any kind of electronic eavesdropping, particularly audio devices that somebody could point at the Pentagon.
NARRATOR: Even the disposing of classified documents leaves little room for secret information to fall into the wrong hands.
YATES: A burn bag is a specially marked brown paper bag that classified material-- or even sensitive, unclassified material-- is put into.
And then, every day, they have pickup here at the building, it's put into the back of a van, it's taken out to the incinerator plant that they have here, and it's burned.
NARRATOR: Information is power in the intelligence community, and secrets are the most valuable kind of information.
But what kinds of secrets are the Pentagon's best military minds ultimately trying to find? HARRIS: I think what they're really after in the intelligence world is anything that can tell them about what's going to happen next.
It's used in a way almost like a crystal ball.
You look to data to almost see the future.
NARRATOR: Coming up: RYAN: We are already experiencing our 9/11 in cyberspace.
NORTH: The Pentagon is target number one for adversaries who want to try to penetrate our communications and shut down the national security apparatus of the United States.
NARRATOR: In July of 2011, the Department of Defense released its first official strategy for operating in the digital age.
Traditionally tasked with keeping America safe by land, air and sea, the Pentagon is now taking steps to investigate, eliminate and annihilate threats from cyberspace.
NORTH: The Pentagon has not only been the target of physical attacks; it's also been the target of hundreds of cyber attacks on a day-to-day basis.
It is target number one for adversaries who want to try to penetrate our communications, our computers, our hardware, software and literally shut down the national security apparatus of the United States.
RYAN: We are already experiencing our 9/11 in cyberspace.
It's already happening.
We've lost trillions of dollars over the last two years of intellectual property.
The hard thing about cyber security is you don't know that the asset's gone.
If someone takes your data, you're still using your data.
If someone takes your submarine, you know the submarine's gone.
NARRATOR: The most significant breach of U.
S.
military networks occurred in 2008 when a foreign intelligence agent inserted an infected flash drive into one of the government's laptops in the Middle East.
The malicious code spread undetected through classified systems, uploaded itself onto a network run by the U.
S.
Central Command and put its servers under enemy control.
RYAN: What we found in 2008 is that attacks can be launched even when an agency or a department is offline and not on the Internet.
It can happen through malicious software being carried from one place to another and inserted onto an offline network using such technology as a USB drive.
HARRIS: This is really analogous to, in the old days of the Cold War, you would send a spy into a government facility, posing as a visitor, who would then try and physically steal the documents.
NARRATOR: Cyber Command is the official unit tasked with protecting the country's digital infrastructure in the 21st century.
While its mission is to protect military assets, has Cyber Command already launched any counterattacks of its own? NEWMAN: We saw something very interesting happen in Iran recently with this so-called Stuxnet virus.
This apparently was a virus that was able to effectively shut down the nuclear program there, and, by some estimates, set it back by one to three years.
That is a profound capability, if we do, in fact, have that capability.
NARRATOR: But who are the secret stalkers plotting to hack the servers and systems at the Pentagon? NEWMAN: I think it's widely believed that the Chinese, the Russians, uh, perhaps even some of our allies, uh, pay very close attention to the Pentagon all the time.
HARRIS: If you look at all the people who are trying to get into military networks, it's going to be everyone from foreign spies to, uh, potentially even corporations who are trying to get information on their competitors.
But, increasingly, what the Pentagon is really most worried about are other governments, militaries, foreign spies, particularly in China, which has been the source of many of the attempted intrusions and some of the successful ones.
And also in Russia, where the intelligence services are still very much interested in what we are doing in our military.
RYAN: If the Internet is anonymous, that means the attackers have the full scope of the cyberspace to be able to launch an attack without being known who they actually are.
So that's one of the big challenges that we need to solve, is know who the attacker is.
NARRATOR: As long as America has enemies wishing to do it harm, the Pentagon will be a tempting target for a cyber or physical attack.
HARRIS: It is a giant building.
It's very difficult to protect, as 9/11 proved.
The military has put, at various locations around Washington, portable missile batteries that are there in case someone were to try and fly a plane into the Pentagon or another building.
NARRATOR: While the Pentagon is the central headquarters to the U.
S.
military, are there secret outposts that allow the armed forces to operate outside the Washington compound? DUBOIS: There are secure, undisclosed locations that are in various places that I will not tell you where they are.
NARRATOR: Some believe there is a secret facility built into the side of a mountain in Raven Rock, Pennsylvania, known as Site R.
Might this, in fact, be a top secret location of a second Pentagon? HARRIS: It's a very sophisticated, big cave that is built into the side of a mountain.
Uh, and this is the place where, in the event of a nuclear war, um, our country's leaders were supposed to go and continue running the country, regardless of what had happened.
It is designed to withstand a nuclear blast.
What you have inside are all of the communications systems that you need, that the president and the defense secretary would need to give orders to the military, the ability to launch the strategic nuclear arsenal, if necessary.
NARRATOR: For seven decades, the Pentagon has been an icon of American strength and military excellence.
But for those who know the structure best, the secret to its national importance extends far beyond the building itself.
DUBOIS: The most extraordinary aspect of this building is not the concrete.
It's not the limestone.
It's not the 17 and a half miles of corridors.
It's the 23,000 people who come to work here every day.
They are the most special part of this building.
HARRIS: This is where all of the thinking about the future of what threats look like occurs.
There probably is no more greater collection of secrets than what you have within those five walls, because, truly, it is all about the preservation of the national security of the United States.
JESTER: When people go to bed at nighttime and go to sleep, the Pentagon is always working.
There's people there who are watching what is going on around the world, making sure our country is safe.
NARRATOR: While their methods may be covert, the men and women who work at the Pentagon every day are dedicated to the building's core mission: to defend and protect the United States from those who would do do America harm.
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