Loose end remains in former White House Military Office director Caldera’s possible communication with White House spokesman Gibbs
Sometimes a goof is just a goof, and nothing more sinister than that, even when it comes to flying the presidential airlift at low altitude around New York City with fighter escort without an adequate public relations push to alert the public in advance of the flight. Months after Unequal Time and a horde of major news agencies and high-powered bloggers filed Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests with various elements of the federal government and United States armed forces to produce documents relating to the flyover of the Big Apple by one the VC-25 aircraft known as Air Force One when the President steps aboard, the fruits of those requests began falling from the tree.
A thorough review of the documents released late Friday by the Office of the Secretary of Defense (you can peruse all of the documents online if you like) reveals that the statements made by the White House and assorted agencies of the federal government in April shortly after the flyover, alluding to the mission being conceived for the purpose of updating age-old file photos, have to be considered accurate. One hundred and forty-six photos, and 989 pages of e-mail messages, flight manifests, flight plans, and other documents tell a story of bureaucratic short-sightedness that would be benign if it were not for the raised heart rates and re-traumatizing of a city that still must be recovering from the shock of the Sept. 11, 2001 terror attacks.
Although the flight manifests have the names of crew redacted (except for Col. Scott M. Turner, USAF) there is no evidence that any civilians were on board during the flight, and the ample amount of e-mail exchange in advance of the mission did not contain any fragments that might indicate significant gaps in what was disclosed on Friday.
What is not clear is how the decision was made to maintain a lid on even the most scant detail about the flyover photo op. The e-mail of April 24 (see image below) between George D. Mulligan and former director of the White House Military Office Louis Caldera indicates that there was an absolute embargo on common sense in the White House Military Office.
Caldera’s response to this e-mail is not included in the FOIA release; one would suppose that an additional FOIA request for White House phone logs from Caldera’s office, as well as notes from the days between April 24 and around April 28 might provide some detail of his reply to Mulligan’s clear statement that the information about the VC-25 flight would only be released if the press asked. I will repeat, the standing order seems to be that the flight information would only be released to the public if the public asked about a flight of which they had no knowledge. Knowing how Caldera responded to Mulligan’s communique would shed a great deal of light on whether he followed up on Mulligan’s suggestion to pass the information along to White House spokesperson Robert Gibbs. If Caldera did relay the information, it would make Gibbs’ comment on the day of the incident – “I have no information beyond what I saw” – a focus of further inquiry should it be revealed that he was aware of the flight as many as three days before it took place.
In short the flyover appears to be a case of the White House’s left hand not knowing (or caring) about what the left hand is doing. Based on the performance so far by the regime of Hope and Change the final analysis seem to be: Systems Normal, All… you know the rest.
A portion of our FOIA request was transferred to the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). We will report the progress and/or results of that inquiry as soon as details are available.
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