Shudderfly II: Administration Knew Fly-Over Would Cause Panic For Some New Yorkers But Still Barred Public Warning of “Classified” Operation

120px-air-force-one-cph-2005A memo has surfaced showing that the Administration expected some New Yorkers would panic at the low-level fly-over of a 747 and F16 in New York. However, they still barred the public release of the “classified” information. It also turns out that the photo op cost the taxpayers $328,835, though no one seems particularly upset about the costs of such a frivolous project at a time when people are being crushed by a recession. President Obama has said that he is furious and has demanded an investigation.

What is striking about this story is the failure of the media to nail down who pushed for this remarkably stupid operation. We now that the White House military office approved it, but not the origins of the proposal. Moreover, this disastrous operation reflects the continuing tendency of the government to classify everything. No one has explained who made the decision that such an operation had to be some type of state secret. I would think that, if someone was going to take a shot at Air Force One, we would prefer to have them try with an empty plane. More importantly, with this memo, the Administration decided that they simply did not put much care into the impact on New Yorkers.

The memo in question was acknowledged by the Federal Aviation Administration’s James Johnston, who said that the agency was aware of “the possibility of public concern regarding DOD (Department of Defense) aircraft flying at low altitudes”over New York City.

For the full story, click here.

16 thoughts on “Shudderfly II: Administration Knew Fly-Over Would Cause Panic For Some New Yorkers But Still Barred Public Warning of “Classified” Operation”

  1. Pure Genius.

    Next week they are planning on having a large gorilla scale the Empire State Building without telling anyone. It’ll make a great photo op.

    What could possibly go wrong?

  2. M72,

    I realize that you are presenting evidence against con-theories and that you are not advocating for Mr. C., although your comment reminded me of many other accomplished people who erred, one recent example.

    Notwithstanding Caldera’s excellent qualifications he must resign or be fired. Such errors are simply unacceptable at that level of government.

    Recall the astronaut Ms. Nowak, Captain USN. She is as educated and as fine a woman as this once great Nation’s government could produce. She could out-fly many other male aviators, was a U.S. Naval Academy grad and had a Master of Science degree in aeronautical engineering with post grad work in astronautical engineering.

    When such accomplished people err, they must not retain the levels of high position regardless of their laurels. What happened to Ms. Nowak was tragic and the woman was the best of the brightest and most accomplished in a difficult and demanding field that only accepts the cream-‘o-the-crop.

    Update on Captain Nowak:

    “On December 5, 2008, the Fifth District Court of Appeals for the State of Florida held that her statements were taken in violation of Miranda, but that the search of her car was still valid under the inevitable discovery exception to the search warrant requirement because the police would have inevitably found it in the normal course of the investigation despite her illegal statement. The case was sent back for trial. A pretrial status hearing has been scheduled for June 22, 2009. On April 1, 2009, the judge ordered Nowak to undergo two psychiatric evaluations before June 12, 2009.[55][56]”

  3. Mespo:

    there is also Murphy’s Law and the Peter Principle, one of the two being good bets as well. Or as is most typical in government-S.N.A.F.U.

  4. mespo: “…I find most outrageous acts are borne of stupidity not malice.”

    Maybe. Still, a smart (presumed by his quals) guy that rejects advice to make a public announcement? Right before a budget fight?

    I live near Scott Air Force Base. Every year at the 4th of July there’s a daily air show at the St. Louis Arch grounds for about 4 days. The planes fly out of Scott. They come up a flight path that brings them very close to my home and many of them fly very low over my area on their final approach. Big-ass planes flying low and loud.

    I always thought (after 9-11) that this event would be perfect cover for a plane oriented terrorist attack on St. Louis (the Arch perhaps) because low-flying planes heading for St. Louis wouldn’t raise an alarm. When I’m outside or in the house and hear/see these monsters (C5A’s and the like) coming in low I get a uncomfortable feeling. I was nowhere near ground zero on 9-11; several states away in fact but watching those planes fly low and fast toward St. Louis makes me uneasy.

    Like your posting and Caldera’s recent job history show, he is not stupid and he was forewarned about the possible (probable) effect. Consequently I look elsewhere for an explanation for such a stupid move from a smart guy.

    Not particularly debating what you said, just explaining my thought process.

  5. lottakatz:

    “My first thought was ‘Who benefits by scaring people about a terrorist incident, ‘is this some kind of op to protect a funding issue?’ The White House Military Office is run by the retired Secretary of the Army after all, a hidden agenda isn’t out of the question and the budget is going to the Senate.”


    I love conspiracy theories too, but I find most outrageous acts are borne of stupidity not malice. Here’s the CV for the Director of the WH Military Office from its website:

    “Louis Caldera is Director of the White House Military Office.

    Caldera has had a distinguished 30-year career as a soldier, lawyer, legislator, high ranking government official, university president and professor of law. In 1992, Caldera was elected to the California State Assembly, and later served in the Clinton administration.

    From 1997 to 1998, Caldera was managing director and chief operating officer for the Corporation for National and Community Service. From 1998 to 2001, he served as the nation’s 17th Secretary of the Army. He has served as a vice chancellor for the California State University system and president of the University of New Mexico, after which he joined the faculty of the UNM School of Law as a tenured professor.

    Caldera is a member of the Council on Foreign Relations. He is a graduate of the U.S. Military Academy at West Point and earned his law and business degrees at Harvard University in 1987, later practicing law in Los Angeles.”

    There is just as much factual support that the “op” or the “plot” was serving the funding interests of the University of New Mexico as that of the Department of the Army, your conspiracy theory notwithstanding.

  6. lottakatz:

    “The White House Military Office is run by the retired Secretary of the Army after all, a hidden agenda isn’t out of the question and the budget is going to the Senate.”

    good thought.

  7. My first thought was ‘Who benefits by scaring people about a terrorist incident, ‘is this some kind of op to protect a funding issue?’ The White House Military Office is run by the retired Secretary of the Army after all, a hidden agenda isn’t out of the question and the budget is going to the Senate.

  8. If they wanted photos, they could have easily photoshopped Air Force One into a New York cityscape. Look what Pixar has been able to do with digital animation. They just didn’t need the plane to be over New York City for pictures.

    It strains credibilty to think that a career military officer –trained to anticipate all possible outcomes –would fail to realize this would scare New Yorkers out of their wits, and how people would feel about that.

    I could believe there’s another reason for this fly-over that they’re not telling us, or I could believe that this was a huge blunder. Truthfully, I’m more comfortable believing there’s another reason.

  9. Another classic example of why limited government is a good thing.

    Government cant even get a photo op right. You know it had to be approved by high-ups in the White House or the military would probably have questioned the wisdom of this event.

    Obama was thought a man of hope,
    Turns out he’s just another dope.
    A hundred days is nearly through
    We are left the months to rue.

    Obamacountdown-only 1,361 days left (no extra days in Februarys between now and Jan. 2012).

  10. I believe that all governmental agencies in NYC were notified. I believe that Bloomberg was playing Republican Dumb. If Turleys first post is accurate and I believe it is. Then it is just a political game.

  11. From the link,
    “…The flyover — apparently ordered by the White House Office of Military Affairs so it would have souvenir photos of Air Force One with the Statue of Liberty in the background — had President Obama seeing red. He ordered a probe and apologized…”

    If I had been in NYC Police Commisioner, Ray Kelly’s, shoes, I would have been on the horn to Mayor Blooomberg and the White House, personally, demanding a full explanation as to what this was all about before ever bowing to such an arrangement.

    And if I was aware the purpose was simply to get a private photo op, I would have raised Holy Hell including my own ‘threat’ to notify the media, regardless, unless somebody in authority got back to me forthwith with an mutually acceptable plan.

    How foolish…

  12. Here’s what one web site said on Feb. 16, 2006:

    “Last week, U.S. President George W. Bush revealed in a public speech that U.S. authorities, working in concert with foreign intelligence and security agencies, had disrupted an al Qaeda plot in
    2002 involving an aircraft attack against a skyscraper in Los Angeles. The attack originally had been planned to take place in October 2001, one month after the 9/11 attacks, but was repeatedly delayed for numerous reasons.

    “As outlined by the president, the attack would have unfolded along now-familiar lines: Four al Qaeda operatives were supposed to hijack an airliner, seize the controls and ram the aircraft into the tallest building on the West Coast–the U.S. Bank Tower, formerly known as the Library Tower. The weapons used were to have been explosives the operatives concealed in their shoes, which supposedly would have aided them in blowing off the cockpit doors.”

    The attack was foiled because of information given by Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, under interrogation at Gitmo. Whatever “torture” they applied to him saved thousands of lives.

  13. If “the administration” is going to be blamed for this astoundingly insensitive operation, then “the administration” should investigate to find out who exactly is responsible, not for the flyover but for wrapping the mission in secrecy.

    I nominate Ray LaHood for the job. LaHood is a no-nonsense Sec. of Transportation who seems to harbor no love for secrecy and who has the temperament to project the anger of “the administration” over such s stupid stunt directly to the American people.

    I predict this will not be the last time Obama’s administration will suffer from “egg on the face disease” as long as Bush administration paranoid functionaries remain in place in the lower levels of the bureaucracy. It’s time for a wholesale housecleaning of all federal departments to rid the country of these rogues – using LOTS of disinfectant.

  14. “We now that the White House military office approved it,” Ok, I understand this part.

    “but not the origins of the proposal.” This one seems murky to me, what does this mean?

    “Moreover, this disastrous operation reflects the continuing tendency of the government to classify everything.” Well if we classify everything, then nothing is FOIAable. This is bad policy. It reminds me of having 12 members on a committee and 4 meet to discuss something over lunch. They are not subject to the Open Meetings Act. This is bad policy.

    Just like judges that discuss nonjudicial issues, why are they not subject to the Open Meetings Act?

    I have an “Enquiring” Mind and I want to know.

  15. Gnome,
    I am with you. This stupid and expensive fly-over was not something cooked up by the Obama Administration. This type of unnecessary secrecy is a carry over from the Bush days and Obama does need to make sure the agencies have changed their ways.

  16. Was this something done by “the administration,” or was it the act of an official who was way down the totem pole.

    The reports say that it was done by the FAA, an agency that has been subordinate to Department of Transportation for about 40 years.

    Let’s blame the concrete, identifiable James Johnston of FAA, not the amorphous administration.

    The FAA has already been slapped down once by the administration for clinging to secrecy. They wanted to conceal all the records of birds hitting airplance. They were overruled by the Sec. of Trans., and the reports were released.

Comments are closed.