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According to White House and Secret Service officials, during yesterday's wildly over-hyped "incursion" by a Cessna 150, there was "no need" to inform the President of any possible threat until nearly 90 minutes after the plane first entered restricted airspace.

According to the Washington Post's Dan Froomkin, MSNBC had this to say:

"The White House says the reason is because they were able to determine that the president was not in any danger, and they said that all of the different protocols were in place, it did not require the president's approval. And that's why the president was not informed until 12:50, after he had finished his bike ride.

Why was it so disturbing that it wasn't deemed necessary for the President to be aware of the situation? Because the Government's reactions that immediately were set in place without his knowledge or consent very nearly resulted in the deaths of two foolish, but innocent Pennsylvanians and could have resulted in many more deaths and injuries on the ground, in residential Washington.  

More below the fold...

According to Reuters:
"The White House said the Secret Service held off informing the president because he was not in danger and White House spokesman Scott McClellan said Bush was satisfied with how the situation was handled. . . .

"McClellan said the president's Secret Service detail was informed about the plane at about 11:59 a.m., when the decision was made to raise the threat level at the White House to 'yellow.'

"Fighter planes were immediately scrambled to intercept the plane, and the threat level at the White House was raised all the way to 'red' before the 'all clear' was given at 12:14 p.m.

"McClellan said Bush was informed about the incident around 12:50 p.m. at the end of his ride. . . .

" 'The president was never in danger and the protocols in place after September 11 were followed,' McClellan said. 'The president has a tremendous amount of trust in his security detail and they were being kept apprised of the situation as it developed.' "

What's so truly disturbing about this failure to notify the President is that by their course of action, it is evident that the snipers aboard the Customs Service S-70 Blackhawk and the DC Air National Guard pilots in their F-16s were cleared to use deadly force if necessary, all without the President's knowledge or consent, when it was readily available.

The Blackhawk stayed abreast the Cessna 150 until the F-16s visually acquired the "target of interest" (TOI), it then departed from formation in order to clear the targeting cone. Were the F-16s unable to arrive on scene in time, the snipers aboard the S-70 would have killed both the pilot and student, if they did not deviate from their course.

As the F-16s began their engagement of the TOI, circling the light plane, which at 90kts, was traveling well below the F-16s' stall speed (~140kts), they were less than 6 minutes from the White House, given that the pilots were unable to communicate with the Cessna, they began dropping flares -- the last non-hostile act in the standard interecept procedure, roughly 90 seconds before the fighters are to drop back and open fire on the non-responsive aircraft.  

Generally, this means that the intercepting fighters have already been verbally cleared to use deadly force, if need be, in order to avoid the indecisiveness and command confusion that occurred with the USAF, VA ANG and DC ANG fighters that flew City-CAPs on 9/11.

Although there is now a military chain of command in place, in the event that the President is incommunicado, to clear the destruction of a civilian aircraft suspected to be under terrorist control, the President was clearly not out of communication, if the Secret Service was able to have a back-and-forth conversation with the White House Situation Room.

And BTW, for all the hububb, a fully loaded Cessna 150 (1,600lb Max T/O weight -- 1,000lbs empty) traveling at 100mph still has significantly less kinetic energy than a Ford Expedition traveling at 70mph. In essence, even in the event of a kamikaze-type scenario, the Cessna posed little, if any, threat to the granite and steel construction of the Capitol and the White House.

Originally posted to mustang dvs on Thu May 12, 2005 at 12:07 PM PDT.

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Comment Preferences

  •  why is this surprising? (none)
    Dubya is Darth's pet goat. And OBL is our pet goat. Use Occam's razor: Bush is a puppet, 9/11 was allowed to happen, and 99.9% of what we're being told is total b.s.

    To summarize: Cheney is president.  

  •  Security procedures are seldom rational (none)
    The focus is on trying to prevent any possible attack from reaching its target. So you put up all these exclusion zones and threaten to shoot anything that gets too close.

    And as we saw yesterday, when the alert level goes up, the security teams then interpret everything as a threat.

    The reality is that the procedures are useless. A civlian airliner on approach to National from the north is within 30 seconds of hitting the White House, Capitol, or Pentagon. While several security measures greatly reduce the likelihood that these aircraft could be hijacked, it doesn't eliminate the threat.

    I've watched Washington slowly turn into a bunkered city over the last 15 years. And I'll tell you that it is all a waste of money. The bad guys will always look to your weak spot, no matter how far away you keep the people.

    - "You're Hells Angels, then? What chapter are you from?"

    by Hoya90 on Thu May 12, 2005 at 12:33:13 PM PDT

    •  Duck & Cover (none)
      I don't know which I find more troubling:
      • Yesterday's demonstration of the Capitol's new and improved evacuation plan RUN!™, or
      • The fact that standing up on a flight in- or out-of National will result in arrest and diversion, yet Dulles is only 7 minutes away by jet and has no such "safeguards."

      Actually, what bothers me most is the hysterical nature of the "security" measures in place around D.C., yet the complete lack of rational security measures and wasteful Homeland Security spending.

      A voice of objective reason in the partisan din of the U.S. National Security community.

      by mustang dvs on Thu May 12, 2005 at 01:07:04 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  hate to say this... (none)
    but it makes sense.

    Would you want to trust the President's judgment in the event of a real emergency?

    Wouldn't you figure out creative ways to leave Bush out of the loop if it was your job to deal with emergencies?

    If Bush had been in the loop, do you honestly believe that the plane would not have been shot down?

    As for the general security situation in DC and the rest of the nation, the problem here is that DHS has multiple agendas:

    • persuading Americans that We Are Being Protected,
    • dispensing government contracts to Bush contributors for snake oil products
    • suppression of political dissent
    • whatever the hell all those agencies combined under the DHS umbrella were doing to begin with
    • protecting against. . . uh, what was it that DHS was supposed to be protecting America against?

    and providing security is at the bottom of the list.

    So the resources that should be going to top-flight security and threat analysis is going into video press releases and thinking up more creative ways to do unpleasant things to American citizens that can be contracted out to Bush's friends instead.

    Looking for intelligent energy policy alternatives? Try here.

    by alizard on Thu May 12, 2005 at 01:11:59 PM PDT

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