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September 11, 2009

More on the Coast Guard Training Exercise

This raised blood pressure this morning, so here's a bit of follow-up:

He said that unspecified "members of the public" had "intercepted" clear-channel, unencrypted Coast Guard radio transmissions regarding the exercise and apparently concluded erroneously that a real interdiction of a suspect vessel was taking place on the Potomac, near Memorial Bridge. Not far from the river, President Obama attended a ceremony Friday morning at the Pentagon to mark the anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.

Currier said that although no shots were fired during the exercise, there was "verbalization of gunfire" in the radio transmissions.

"Somebody said, 'Bang! Bang!' on the radio at an appropriate time in the training exercise when the actual interdiction of the boat would have taken place," he said.

CNN, Fox and other media outlets cited police radio transmissions in which officers allegedly ordered shots fired. Television anchors and analysts speculated on-air as to whether the allegedly "suspicious vessel" confronted by the Coast Guard could be linked to the 9/11 anniversary.

It's actually fairly common for people to call 911 when they see police and firefighter training exercises, so I'm not surprised this happened with the Coast Guard. It's just that dispatchers are often warned in advance when the police and firefighters are up to something. That wasn't the case this morning—for the Coast Guard this was just a "routine exercise"—so early reports of something going on in the river sent D.C. police cars racing to the Potomac.

Robert Gibbs said that he wouldn't second-guess the Coast Guard's decision to conduct the training exercise on September 11th and it appears that it was just bad timing that President Obama's motorcade was passing nearby.

Still, if it was just "routine" then there doesn't seem—to me, anyway—to be any reason why the exercise couldn't wait until next week. I'm not saying that everyone should lie low on September 11th. I just think that people are still a bit wound-up about it and seeing first-responders and other security agencies behaving unusually on this anniversary is bound to get people excited.

Just as with the Scare Force One fly-over, the government didn't think informing local authorities was necessary. In fact, they didn't need to announce it to everyone; they just needed a bit of communication to avoid frightening people.

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posted by Gabriel Malor at 04:44 PM

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