Friday, May 8, 2009

Scare Force One: all done?

A building can't change its mind, but "The White House," after declaring that no photos would be released, has decided to release a photo, that's one photo, from the NY City flyover. First the DC school voucher program, then the photos, you never know which way this White House is going to go. Seems to me the White House used to just sit there on Pennsylvania Avenue, and you always knew where it was. Not going anywhere. Coolidge in 2012! Yes, I know he's dead. But he was nearly that quiet when he was alive. A plus, in my book. Here's the photo:

Well then, that was certainly worth all the aggravation.

When you think of all the exciting photos they could have released, this is a bit of a letdown. Where are the fleeing crowds, the skyscraper close-ups?

The spin is to focus the news stories on the designated fall guy, Louis Caldera, who has resigned. LA Times story: White House aide out after $357,012 photo-op with Air Force One. The Guardian, with a cropped photo so the plane looks bigger: Aide who approved Air Force One flyover in New York resigns. The official report (PDF): Internal Review Concerning April 27, 2009 Air Force One Flight. (That URL looks generic; I wonder how long that report will be at that address. CBS News has another copy.)

The report has everybody pointing fingers at everybody else:

Ultimately, the Director did not notify Messrs. Messina or Gibbs about the flyover. When asked why he failed to do so, he did not offer a coherent explanation. He stated that it was not a conscious decision—he did not decide not to notify them. Instead, he suggested that it may have been an oversight. He noted that the Deputy Director had not told him (and he did not understand) that Air Force One would be flying over lower Manhattan at a very low altitude. He then stated that people frequently recommend that he notify Mr. Messina about certain events. Sometimes they are right; sometimes they are wrong. Finally, the Director stated that he was not asked to approve the flight. If he had been asked to make a decision, he would have received a formal package requesting his approval and he would have expected earlier and more extensive discussions with Colonel Turner and the Deputy Director.

We also asked the Deputy Director why he did not notify Messrs. Messina or Gibbs. He did not do so for two reasons. First, he believed—based on his discussions with Colonel Turner and the various emails he received—that experienced professionals had planned the mission, and they had taken necessary steps to ensure the public was notified. Second, he believed that the Director would pass the information up the chain of command. This was standard office procedure, and he believed the Director preferred it that way.
The conclusion:
In this memorandum—based on our interviews with the Director and the Deputy Director, as well as our review of the relevant documents—we have described the facts and circumstances that led to the flyover of New York City on April 27. The purpose of this review is to help you determine whether process breakdowns and/or errors in judgment may have contributed to the incident and how best to prevent a similar incident from happening in the future.

In addition, our review suggests that structural and organizational ambiguities exist within WHMO that at times affect the organization's ability to operate effectively. These ambiguities include the reporting relationship of the PAG to the White House and to the Air Force. For example, neither the P AG nor any other Air Force component notifies the White House about routine training exercises. And there are no clear procedures governing the approval process for the use of PAG aircraft, including Air Force One, for operations other than Presidential support. As a result, unusual missions such as the April 27 New York City flyover can be subject to confusion.

We believe that WHMO's general structure—and specifically, the reporting relationship of WHMO's operational units (such as the PAG) to the White House and to the Military Service Branches—should be examined. We recommend a comprehensive study resulting in recommendations to the President regarding these structural issues.
But it was all Caldera's fault, except that there are structural problems in the bureaucratic structure, which will surely be identified by the ace bureaucrats who will form up a commission to study the structure, and will be careful not to hire Louis Caldera again. It will be interesting to see where he winds up.

Is it all under the rug now? Or will there be further revelations, possibly even another photo? Keep watching the skies!

Thanks to Gerard Vanderleun, who has a Photoshop, and comments.

Update: There is considerably more discussion at Althouse: The Air Force 1 flight over NYC can't possibly have been made for the purpose of taking that photograph. And another post which I dare not name.

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