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May 19, 2005 - Image 122

Resource type:
The Detroit Jewish News, 2005-05-19

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n a story that
Aaron Spelling
couldn't dream
up any better,
35,000 people were
evacuated from the
halls of government
in Washington,
D.C., as a wayward,
senile pilot and his
student ventured
into the red no-fly
zone on May 11.
It seems they
were lost on the way to an air show
in Pennsylvania when a Blackhawk
helicopter appeared on their wing
and an F-16 fired some flares as an
invitation to a meet-and-greet on a
nearby tarmac.
The nightly news, tired of cover-
ing the war in Iraq and the Social
Security debate, was filled with
images of fleeing senators, con-
gresspersons, judges, lobbyists, polit-
ical aides and hacks spilling into the
streets as heavily armed men took
positions on the White House lawn.
When the plane came within 15
miles of the White House at 11:59
a.m., the threat level went to yellow.
Ten minutes later, the plane broke
the 10-mile barrier and the evacua-
tions began.
Two minutes later, Code Red
began as the plane approached to
within three miles of the White
House, and the Secret Service offi-
cers took the safeties off their shoul-
der-fired missile launchers, then
waited for the "All Clear."
Now that the dust has somewhat
settled, security experts are wonder-
ing if it was at all wise to send that
many people into the streets when a
plane of such diminutive size flew
into the red zone.
According to a Washington Post
story, several law enforcement agen-
cies questioned the evacuation.
"The damage that a small plane,
even one packed with explosives,
could cause to buildings would be
minimal," noted the story. "Other
counter-terrorism specialists said

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that the small plane could have
sprayed a biological or chemical sub-
stance on the crowds evacuated from
the buildings."
The White House has its own
bunker system. The Capitol has an
underground tunnel system that
links both houses of Congress and
even sports a cafeteria that offers
"Freedom Fries." Tunnels also
connect the surrounding office
Why send people in the streets
when you can send them under-
What bothered many of the White
House press corps, besides the fact
that they had to go outside for the
15 minutes it took to handle the sit-
uation, is that the president wasn't
notified until after his bike ride in a
Maryland wildlife refuge. His securi-
ty detail knew, but did not tell him.
Asked if the president was upset,
according to an Associated Press
story, White House press secretary
Scott McClellan said, "The president
has a great amount of trust in his
security detail. If there are any
improvements that need to be made,
they will be made."
Bush's wife, Laura, and former
First Lady Nancy Reagan were
whisked away from the White House
in the middle of a visit, and Vice
President Dick Cheney was off to
yet another undisclosed secure loca-
tion, but nobody bothered to tell the
I don't mean to criticize, but if I'm
the leader of the Free World and
35,000 people who work for me are
evacuated even as a high school
prank, I'd like to know about it.
I remember a few months after
Bush took office a person jumped
the fence and tried to run on the
White House lawn. He was immedi-
ately tackled and led away. The vice
president, who was in the West
Wing, was immediately told of the
incident. The president, who was in
his private quarters, was told after he
finished his daily workout.
At some point, I'm sure the
administration would prefer that,
during the next false alarm, the pres-
ident could be found at his desk.

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