The Federal Aviation Administrationknew that flying a presidential jet and an F-16 fighter near Ground Zero Monday morning might cause panic -- but they went along with the $328,000 boondoggle anyway.
Is that really any surprise? Of course they knew. Apparently, they just didn’t care.
The real indignation, here, is not only that the FAA “knew” their mission would draw ire and mass confusion. It’s that they charged the public $328,825 to scare the bejesus out of them without ever telling them why.
Taxpayers are struggling to pay their bills, maintain credit, feed their families – and the federal government charged them nearly $350,000 for a “top-secret” mission to take a picture of a jet flying around the Statue of Liberty so that the file photo – the file photo – of Air Force One would be updated.
What kind of priorities are we talking about here?
A high-ranking FAA administration official predicted the mission would spark fear and confusion among the public, yet the memo never made it to city officials or the NYPD.
"Due to the possibility of public concern regarding DOD [Department of Defense] aircraft flying at low levels, coordination with federal, state and local law-enforcement agencies, emergency-operations centers and aviation units has been accomplished," the e-mail from James Johnston read, according to the New York Post.
Well, what about coordination with the public? You know, the taxpayers who funded the mission in the first place? The objective was to take glamour shots of a presidential plane – hardly a goal worthy of withholding information from the public under the auspices of national security.
Many federal and city officials agree. "Keeping it secret was BS," one FAA source said, according to the Post.
Bloomberg went on a rampage, saying he would have asked Washington to call the flyover off had he known about it in advance. Lord have mercy on the obscure staffer, Marc Mugnos, who forgot to tell him about it. Ultimately, Bloomberg says Washington was at fault for the debacle for demanding that it control the message and all communication. Had Bloomberg and Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly known what was going on, it’s likely the public would have known too, sources told the Post.
"Keep in mind there have been other flyovers over the last three or four years and we've dealt with them the way we should have," Bloomberg said. "Normally, we get phenomenal cooperation out of the federal government."
"We were dealing with a whole different bunch of bureaucrats," a City Hall source told the Post.
President Barack Obama wasn’t aware of the flyover mission. He has called it a mistake, requested an internal review and promised "it will not happen again."