Top Secret $328,000 Photo: NYC Air Force Shot Won't Be Released

The White House is keeping a tight grip on photos from last week's botched Air Force One promotional photo op over Lower Manhattan.

At a press briefing Tuesday, White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs dodged reporters' questions about last week's photo-op, which cost over $328,000 in taxpayer dollars and frightened a broad swath of lower Manhattan, site of the 9/11 attack on the World Trade Center towers.

"I've watched CNN. . . I didn't notice a lack of archival material from that flight," Gibbs cracked, an apparent reference to the prevalence of shaky video shot last week by witnesses on the ground.

Gibbs said the White House anticipates completing a review of the incident this week, but did not answer questions about why it would not release the pictures or when it might do so.

A White House spokesman said this is not a new decision and the plan not to release the photo has remained the same since news of the incident broke last week.

The Air Force referred all questions on the matter to the White House.

The White House Military Office had reportedly organized the event, but made no arrangements to alert Manhattanites that a large plane would fly very close to their tall buildings. As a result, many fled the area at the sight of the plane, believing it could be another 9/11-style attack.

Defense Department Photo Shoot

The Department of Defense photo shoot involved a Boeing 747 used as Air Force One and one fighter jet flying at low altitude in the area around Ground Zero.

Residents and workers in Lower Manhattan and New Jersey, unaware of the photo op, ran into the streets, traumatized by memories of 9-11 and afraid of another attack. Emergency offices in both cities were inundated with hundreds of frightened calls. "It scared a couple of million people," one airport official said.

President Obama and New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who had not been told about the photo op, were both infuriated by the incident.

Bloomberg called it "ill-conceived" and a "waste of taxpayers' money." A White House official told ABC News that President Obama was "furious" when he found out, and the Director of the White House Military Office, Louis Caldera, who approved the photo op, was called into a meeting with White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel and Deputy Chief of Staff Jim Messina.

"It didn't sound like a fun meeting," the White House official said.

Caldera Apologized for Plane Photo Op

Later, Caldera apologized in a statement, saying, "Last week, I approved a mission over New York. I take responsibility for that decision. While federal authorities took the proper steps to notify state and local authorities in New York and New Jersey, it's clear that the mission created confusion and disruption. I apologize and take responsibility for any distress that flight caused."

At a photo op last week with FBI Director Robert Mueller, President Obama said, "It was a mistake, as was stated. It was something we found out about along with all of you. And it will not happen again." The President did not answer a follow-up question on whether or not Caldera is the right man for the job.

Later, White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs said that President Obama ordered that Deputy Chief of Staff Jim Messina conduct an internal review, which will take a couple of weeks to complete.

"The President will look at that review and take any appropriate steps after that," Gibbs said.

Page
  • 1
  • |
  • 2
Join the Discussion
You are using an outdated version of Internet Explorer. Please click here to upgrade your browser in order to comment.
blog comments powered by Disqus
 
You Might Also Like...
See It, Share It
PHOTO: U.S. Customs and Border Protection officers at the George Bush Intercontinental Airport in Houston stopped a would be smuggler from bringing nearly 7 ounces of cocaine into the country in tamales, Aug. 22, 2014.
U.S. Customs and Border Protection
Real Housewife Phaedra Parks Lists Home in Suburban Atlanta
Real Housewives of Atlanta star, Phaedra Parks, has listed her 4,000-square-foot home with 5 bedrooms and 6 baths for $340,900.
In this image from video posted on Facebook, courtesy of the George W. Bush Presidential Center, former President George W. Bush participates in the ice bucket challenge with the help of his wife, Laura Bush, in Kennebunkport, Maine.
(Courtesy George W. Bush Presidential Center/AP)