Thursday, June 10, 2004

FALSE ALARMS: Thousands Flee Capitol After Warning of Imminent Attack; Ky. Gov. to Blame

Roughly two hours before the arrival of the late President Ronald Reagan's coffin at the Capitol, thousands of staffers and Members inside the Capitol complex made a mad dash for dear life after Capitol Police told everyone to leave the complex as soon as humanly possible.

My sources on Capitol Hill indicate that the sudden warning to evacuate was much scarier than the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks as the notice to leave was so dramatic and immediate that people were under the impression that a plane was within three minutes of striking Capitol Hill ... or in one case, as one cop said, the "plane's comin' right now!" So people ran as far away as possible, some, apparently as far as Eastern Market. Overall, it was chaos. One person told me that there were police officers tripping on their way out while telling others to run.

Meanwhile, Judy Woodruff reported on CNN that when Capitol security officials told her to take her shoes off and run, she knew something "was wrong." It was sort of an odd and awkward instant analysis, but you get the point.

So what happens to Congressional pets when there is an immeidate threat of a plane full of jet fuel dive bombing the Rotunda? In one case that I heard, one Member's dog was too fat to scamper off, it was carried by a trusted aide.

So what caused all the chaos?

From The Washington Post's John Mintz and Spencer S. Hsu:
F-16 fighter jets and Black Hawk helicopters were sent to intercept the errant twin-engine turboprop plane. It turned out to be a Kentucky State Police aircraft ferrying newly elected Gov. Ernie Fletcher (R), a former member of the U.S. House of Representatives, to Washington for Reagan's funeral.

That's right, the transponder of the governor's plane was broken, which freaked out Federal Aviation Administration monitors in Herndon, Va.

More information:
"Capitol Cleared Over Errant Small Plane" [The Washington Post]
"Capitol building briefly evacuated hours before Reagan honors" [Louisville Courier-Journal via AP]

"New York Police Say E-Mail on Subway Attack Is Hoax" [Reuters]
"'Al-Qaeda' threat to US airlines" [BBC]


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