Bush was oblivious to D.C. terror scare

While D.C. was panicked about a wayward plane yesterday, Bush relaxed on his bike, oblivious to the commotion.

Published May 12, 2005 3:16PM (EDT)

Just to review yesterday's excitement. A non-communicative aircraft busted through Washington, D.C.'s strict no-fly zone, passed over the vice president's house, was making a beeline for the White House with a Black Hawk helicopter on its tail, and was within moments of being shot down out of the sky. Meanwhile, the Capitol and White House were evacuated, including Vice President Dick Cheney and First Lady Laura Bush, while Supreme Court justices were whisked to an underground parking garage. But President Bush, obliviously riding his bike at a Maryland state park, was not informed about the security breach until half-an-hour after it was over, because, according to White House officials, there was no need for him to know.

Raise your hand if you think that's odd.

The aviation episode, which turned out to be a false alarm involving a student pilot who was just sent to the back of his flight class, sparked pandemonium inside the Beltway just after noon yesterday. "Alarms sounded and emergency lights went on in congressional office buildings about noon, as police shouted warnings and people hurried for exits and walked, or ran, down marble staircases and north toward Union Station, witnesses said," reported the Washington Post.

At 12:03, with the plane apparently zeroing in on the White House, the compound went to "red" alert. "We have to remember that we are a nation at war," said White House spokesman Scott McClellan. "And there are still people that seek to do harm to the United States and seek to carry out attacks on the United States."

And so why was Bush kept in the dark, while his wife at the White House, not to mention centers of the U.S. government, faced a possible attack? McClellan explained that members of the presidential security detail, who were with Bush on his relaxing bike ride, decided that Bush did not have to be informed because he was not in danger and the Washington, D.C., mass evacuations at key government buildings did not require his authorization.

Said McClellan, "The president has great trust in his security detail. He was never in any danger, and the protocols that were in place were followed."

What's odd is that the New York Times was among the few major newspapers this morning that considered it newsworthy that Bush was deliberately kept in the dark about an unfolding terror evacuation. Right in the second sentence of its news account, the Times reported, "President Bush was not told of the threat until he finished a bicycle ride at a Maryland wildlife center, nearly 40 minutes after the plane had been forced to turn away, administration officials said."

But for the Washington Post, Los Angeles Times and the Chicago Tribune, the White House's bizarre don't tell-don't tell policy for Bush and possible unfolding terrorist attacks garnered just a passing reference.

By Eric Boehlert

Eric Boehlert, a former senior writer for Salon, is the author of "Lapdogs: How the Press Rolled Over for Bush."

MORE FROM Eric Boehlert

Related Topics ------------------------------------------

War Room