D.C. cops were in the dark about plane threat

Washington, D.C., police never got word that a errant plane was moments away from being shot down over city streets.

Published May 13, 2005 1:41PM (EDT)

Despite all the self-congratulatory talk among security officials about how all the proper responses were followed Wednesday after the tense airplane scare over the skies of the White House, it turns out that Washington, D.C., police failed to get word that an errant aircraft that had penetrated D.C.'s strict no-fly zone was minutes away from being shot down over city streets.

The Washington Post has the embarrassing details:

"On a day when federal agencies were keeping track, second by second, of a potential attack on the capital, however, the city was out of the loop.

"D.C. police officials had no idea that fighter jets and helicopters were being deployed over Washington to intercept an errant plane on Wednesday, even though they had a sergeant in the nation's homeland security command center and the ability to monitor what was taking place at their own headquarters. At police headquarters, someone had disconnected a phone line that would have provided emergency communications from the Federal Aviation Administration, the officials said.

"It was not until he heard fighter jets screaming past his office that D.C. Police Chief Charles H. Ramsey had an inkling of the events that had been consuming federal officials for a half-hour."

By Eric Boehlert

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

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