August 2, 2009 (by Stars and Stripes) - The Air Force released a trove of photos and documents late Friday related to the Air Force One photo shoot that sent residents of New York City into a state of panic in April.
In response to a Freedom of Information Act request, the Air Force supplied 145 additional photos — one had previously been released — and more than 1,000 pages of documents. Included are a series of e-mails showing the military underestimated the uproar the flight would cause, and various Defense Department agencies scrambling in the hours afterward to assess the situation, as well as avoid and assign blame.
"All has been coordinated," George Mulligan, deputy director of the White House Military Office, wrote in an April 24 e-mail to director Louis Caldera.
"Will probably receive some local press, but WH (White House) shouldn’t catch any questions about it."
On the morning of April 27, a backup Air Force One plane accompanied by two F-16 jets flew low over parts of Manhattan, providing an opportunity to snap photos that might later be used for promotional purposes.
On the ground, citizens panicked as the scene reminded them a little too much of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks on the city. By the early afternoon, the military was trying to assess the situation and minimize the hit.
"This is not our job jar," one Air Force official wrote in an e-mail.
"I agree we (the AF & Capitol Hill) need to accomplish damage control, but we aren’t the POC nor do I want to become a belly button for NORAD
to push on this one."
By late afternoon, the White House had issued an apology, with Caldera accepting responsibility for the flight.
However, the White House and the Pentagon spent weeks on the defensive.
In addition to the public uproar, New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg said he had been unaware of the plans and was "furious."
The next day, Sen. John McCain fired off a letter to Defense Secretary Robert Gates, calling the mission “a fundamentally unsound exercise in military judgment.”
On May 9, Caldera turned in his resignation in a letter to President Barack Obama, saying the incident had become a "distraction."