"Inform the President upon conclusion of his bike ride"


So a total assholes-and-elbows scramble at the White House and Capitol does not merit any POTUS interaction, even notification. Interesting. This leaves us wondering what does rise to the level of a tap on the C-in-C shoulder. Presumably taking down the Cessna and raining fiery death down on DC might, although it is hard to tell. It certainly looks like the check-list for this kind of incident has presidential pre-approval right up through taking down aircraft deemed hostile.

Or it could be that the decision to take down aircraft has deliberately been moved further down the chain of command in order to insulate the office of the president from the aftermath of such a decision. Like I said, interesting.

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  1. Nah, it’s just happenstance. If there were anything truly bizarre about it, or anything to the idea that the president is weak and thus kept out of the loop on such decisions, the White House wouldn’t have volunteered this information.

  2. The Bush admin transferred shoot-down authority from the Joint Chiefs to the SecDef and the VPOTUS back in July 2001

  3. I wouldn’t trust Bush to make the right call on what wine to have with dinner; so it’s of no small comfort to me that he’s out of the loop on important things like “the safety of the people of Washington.” As one of those very people, I applaud any process regarding our safety that does not involve the idiot in chief.

  4. Or it could be that the decision to take down aircraft has deliberately been moved further down the chain of command in order to insulate the office of the president from the aftermath of such a decision.

    You mean like the decision to torture people that pray to a different Dog?

  5. It all sounds reasonable to me. The President presumably helped shape the rules of engagement for the restricted airspace around the capital, but he doesn’t have the training to make these kinds of moment-to-moment tactical decisions. The people on the scene followed a pre-planned response and determined, correctly, that nothing was happening that required attention at the national level.

  6. So…would the President have the training to make the sort of moment-to-moment tactical (or would it be strategic?) decisions required in the event of, say, incoming ICBM’s on the horizon, or would we outsource that decision too?

  7. I see I’m not the only person who’s glad that G W Bush isn’t allowed to make any decisions.

    Now, if we could just make it so the rest of the people in DC don’t get to make decisions either, then we’d really be getting somewhere!

  8. decisions required in the event of, say, incoming ICBM’s on the horizon, or would we outsource that decision too?

    I believe that decision has been given to a tech support call center in Bangalore.

  9. Why would we expect ANY of the useless, half-witted, made-for-tv personae we elect to public office to have the kind of training to make any kind of tactical decision? They’re selected for their ability to serve the people who pay the money to put them on the ballot. And those people aren’t screening for talent, just electability.

  10. I can think of someone in Washington who’s proven his ability to make wise tactical decisions in a situation of mortal danger.

  11. joe – Bill Pulman in Independence Day?


  12. joe-

    Danger? He was never in any mortal danger! Twas but a flesh wound!

    Anyway, let’s not quarrel and bicker over who got wounded by who. Finding out that the plane was off-course by accident rather than as part of a terrorist attack is supposed to be a happy occasion.

  13. Brave Sir Cheney ran away,
    Bravely ran away away,
    When aircraft came too near his head,
    He bravely turned his tail and fled,
    Yes brave Sir Cheney turned about,
    He ran away and chickened out!

  14. At least the incident kept Congress from passing any laws for a couple of hours. Maybe we need this kind of thing to happen 24/7-365?

    (During a leap year Congress will get one day. Or maybe even that is to much?)

  15. I would think the response would be automatic and reflexive without any sort of beaurcatic micromanagement. I would think that when you only have a brief moment of time it takes too long to run up and down the chain of command. I also have to believe there is some plan that gets carried out rather than playing it by ear. Then again, the brain stem is probably where most governmental decisions are made.

  16. Reminds me of the *Onion* article
    “When I’m Feeling Blue, I Can Always Go To My Undisclosed Location” (by “DIck Cheney”):

    “When I get to my undisclosed location, nestled somewhere between Oregon and Maine, it’s like all my troubles magically disappear. Even before I get inside, as the helicopter flies over the last tree-covered hill, man-made lake, craggy mountain, or expanse of desert, and I can see the razor-wire-covered embankment come over the rise, I take a deep breath and know that everything is going to be okay.”

  17. I’m with the “this makes sense when you think about it” camp. The people responible for protecting the president (and the capitol) can’t rely on his input. Is he supposed to go up to the roof of the whitehouse with a radio and say “not yet… not yet… not yet … ok, NOW!”? In a real emergency, he’s supposed to be evacuated, it’s unlikely he could get the tactical information to make an informed decision while being hustled into a bomb shelter or vehicle. Leave it to the professionals.

  18. I’m with Mike on this one.

    Besides, the fact that this administration will admit that this is the way it’s supposed to be handled rather than pretend that the President is the only guy with the authority… Well, it makes me think that what we hear from it might not always be the right answer, but that it IS in good faith.

    I’m not sure which is sadder, now that I think about it a bit further…

  19. What’s so strange about this story is that they contacted the plane several times during its flight inside restricted airspace, and they received no response. Why would the pilots ignore them? How stupid can you be to fly inside restricted airspace for that distance (the pilots were WAY past the point where they would have just accidentally wandered into it) and not realize that someone is trying to radio you so urgently?

    I’m really suprised they didn’t just shoot the plane down. Logically speaking, they SHOULD have, given the massive breach and the suspicious failure to respond to radio transmissions. I think this incident serves as proof that the administration really has been scaring us with all this terror alert crap; if they were to be consistent with all the stern and scary warnings they’ve thrown at us, they would have shot the plane down. Instead, they assumed this was not a serious enough threat and sent two jets up to force the pilots down.

    I’m certainly not saying the pilots deserved death for their mistake. Indeed, we can be happy that this was all resolved peacefully and that no one was hurt in the scuffle. But doesn’t that peaceful resolution fly in the face of all the macho homeland security talk we’ve been hearing?

  20. I think people greatly overestimate the size and power (and especially weight) of light aircraft. A cessna 150 has a max. gross weight of ~1600 lbs. (A big harley is over 1000) Of that, around 400lbs is for cargo and passengers. Not much allowance for explosives (especially if you see two real people in there). Max. speed is around 120 mph. In comparison, the blackhawk they had follow it weighs 17,432 Lbs ready to go and can go around 170 MPH. I don’t know if you saw the stupid bond movie with the drug dealers, but the blackhawk could probably carry the cessna without too much effort. In real life, the rotor wash could be used to force the aircraft down, or the weaponry used to shoot it down, or the blackhawk could ram the cessna if things got really dire; all in a moment’s notice. I think they didn’t shoot because they knew they had the situation well in hand the whole time.
    They evacuated because if anyone had gotten hurt, they had to say they followed the emergency plan. Also, the plane could very well have been a diversion to prepare for something worse.

  21. It’s so nice, pandemonium, ahem panurge, that you don’t insist on showering DC with wreckage, burning fuel, and mutilated corpses as a proof of the guvmint’s moxie.

  22. radezky-

    You missed the point of what I was saying. I’m glad no one was hurt. But it just seems inconsistent with all the tough talk, doesn’t it?

  23. panurge, etc.: I think that sending F-16s, etc up to intercept a freaking CESSNA is plenty tough enough. It’s certainly a robust enough response, in sufficient enough time, to make the sensible decision not to shoot the knuckleheads down for being knuckleheads in restricted airspace.

    Besides, the tough talk is supposed to be part of deterrence. If that doesn’t work, it doesn’t mean that you should shoot down a slow-moving Cessna if you have the opportunity to avoid it.

    Chalk this up as a significant triumph in several ways: 1) good decision-making on the part of the National Command Authority (TSA, Air Force, FAA) 2)the guys in the sky (customs and USAF) who deserve plenty of praise for keeping their heads. (They relayed good, clear information back to the NCA so it could make a good call). 3) The F-16 pilots especially, for responding professionally and according to their exceptional training.

    (As opposed to going with the “tough talk means you have to kill these knuckleheads and drop flaming wreckage onto whoever might be below the knuckleheads” school of response.)

    Interview with one of the pilots:


    The pertinent bit that gives insight into the shoot-down decision process:

    “LEHMANN: Well, Kyra, the national capital region is defended with a layered defense. And as a target of interest turns up on the radar scope, decisions are already being made as to whether we consider this a high threat, medium threat or low threat.

    And those decisions are being made at a national command authority level, a very high level of the military chain of command and civilian chain of command. And as they assessed this aircraft, relatively light aircraft, they did not accept it as a high threat-type of environment. So that order was never given to shoot it down.

    The one thing I think the American public should understand, that there is a layered defense around our nation’s capital. We are not the only ones who can engage and bring down tracks of interest.

    And I’d like to assure your listeners that that airplane would not have penetrated — it would not have hit anything in D.C. And it would have been dropped from the sky before that would have happened.”

  24. “But doesn’t that peaceful resolution fly in the face of all the macho homeland security talk we’ve been hearing?”

    Well, I for one am very glad that we don’t have to prove our cojones like the Cuban pilots who shot the Brothers to the Rescue out of the air, after *they* had flown Cessnas into controlled air space. (See http://www.worldhistory.com/wiki/C/Cojones.htm)

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