The Federal Aviation Administration knew that the low flight of Air Force One over downtown New York City Monday might cause New Yorkers to panic, an FAA memo shows.
In the memo, obtained by the city’s WCBS-TV station, FAA official James Johnston says the FAA understood "the possibility of public concern regarding DOD (Department of Defense) aircraft flying at low altitudes" through New York City.
But that didn’t stop the agency from ordering the city’s police department, the mayor’s office, the Secret Service and the FBI to keep information about the flight secret. And the FAA threatened federal penalties if any information was leaked.
The plane, often used as Air Force One, and two fighter jets buzzed low around New York’s downtown to provide photos with the Statue of Liberty in the background for souvenirs. The path included the World Trade Center area where the 9/11 attacks took place.
Workers streamed out of buildings in fear that another terrorist strike was taking place.
The White House says President Obama is “furious” about the incident and has ordered an investigation into how it took place.
Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., wasn’t so happy about the secrecy either. "To say that it should not be made public knowing that it might scare people it's just confounding," he tells WCBS.
"It's what gives Washington and government a bad name. It's sheer stupidity."
Mayor Michael Bloomberg also was furious to be kept in the dark. The FAA told one of his aides, Marc Mugnos, about the flight, but he neglected to inform Bloomberg.
“Why the Defense Department wanted to do a photo-op right around the site of the World Trade Center catastrophe defies imagination,” Bloomberg tells The New York Times.
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