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Cheney: Bush OK'd shootdown of rogue planes

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- In the moments after it became apparent that the United States was under attack Tuesday, President Bush authorized the military to shoot down any unauthorized civilian aircraft that might have been heading toward the White House or the Capitol, Vice President Dick Cheney said Sunday.

"We decided to do it," Cheney declared on NBC's "Meet the Press."

The chance never materialized.

An American Airlines flight with 64 people on board slammed into the Pentagon before military jets had a chance to intercept it. And another jet -- United Airlines Flight 93, with 45 on board -- crashed in western Pennsylvania. Authorities believe it may have been headed toward the White House or the Capitol, and it crashed during an apparent struggle between the passengers and hijackers.

None of the four flights that were hijacked and deliberately crashed -- two others slammed into the World Trade Center in New York -- were hit by military fire.

Cheney said the decision to shoot down any civilian military aircraft was the "toughest decision" the administration faced in those early moments, but one it felt was justified.

"The president made the decision. ... I concurred ... that if the plane would not divert, if they wouldn't pay any attention to instructions to move away from the city, as a last resort, our pilots were authorized to take them out," Cheney said.

The vice president acknowledged that it was "a horrendous decision to make" because the plane was full of "civilians captured by terrorists and -- are you going to shoot it down and kill all those Americans on board?"

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