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Coast Guard's Sept. 11 Training Exercise Sparks Confusion In D.C.

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Annjeannette
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« on: September 11, 2009, 06:14:30 pm »

Coast Guard's Sept. 11 Training Exercise Sparks Confusion In D.C.


CALVIN WOODWARD and EILEEN SULLIVAN | 09/11/09 05:06 PM | AP


WASHINGTON A morning of remembrance turned into one of flashbacks, fear and media mishaps Friday when a Coast Guard exercise unfolding near Pentagon ceremonies marking the Sept. 11, 2001, anniversary was mistaken as an attack. The false reports of gunfire on the river briefly spooked the capital, sending FBI agents to the scene and grounding flights.

The episode left the Coast Guard promising to "take a good hard look at what we did here today" and military families sore that officials would simulate a confrontation on the Potomac River on a day of raw emotions and high security.

But the exercise, involving speeding boats and at least one helicopter, probably would have passed unnoticed except that two TV networks confused simulated chatter over a Coast Guard radio for actual events and reported that the Coast Guard had opened fire on a suspicious vessel near ceremonies attended by President Barack Obama.

A chain of errors on television and online raised fears the capital might be under assault eight years to the day almost the moment after the terrorist attack on the Pentagon. CNN reported 10 shots had been fired, based on information it heard over the network's police scanner.

On Twitter, the network reported: "Coast Guard confronts boat as Obama visits Pentagon, police scanner reports say shots fired."

After the Reuters news agency reported on what CNN was saying, Fox News followed suit, telling viewers: "Here is what we are learning. The U.S. Coast Guard ship of some type fired on what is considered a suspicious boat in the Potomac River."

Anchor Bill Hemmer said: "I can't recall a time or moment like this, on an American river, where the Coast Guard has opened fire."

In fact, no shots were fired and there was no trouble on the river.
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Annjeannette
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« Reply #1 on: September 11, 2009, 06:15:14 pm »



A U.S. Coast Guard boat is seen on the Potomac River in Washington, Friday, Sept. 11, 2009. The Coast Guard was conducting a training exercise in the Potomac River moments before President Barack Obama crossed a nearby bridge for a Sept. 11 commemoration. (AP Photo/Haraz N. Ghanbari)
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Annjeannette
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« Reply #2 on: September 11, 2009, 06:15:31 pm »

The Coast Guard's chief of staff, John Currier, said participants in the exercise were given simulated instructions by radio to fire 10 rounds, and someone said "bang, bang, bang," – the routine signal of compliance in drills that don't involve live fire.

Unaware that it was an exercise, CNN opened its reporting on the incident by saying at least one boat was intruding in a security zone on the river and the Coast Guard was chasing it. As the network showed pictures of the river, a banner read: "Breaking News: Coast Guard fires 10 rounds at boat on Potomac River."

"This is pretty incredible," said the anchor, Heidi Collins. CNN played audio from the scanner, with a man saying: "Stop your vessel. ... You will be fired on."

The exercise played out on the stretch of the Potomac closest to the Pentagon – between the 14th Street and Memorial bridges – as Obama joined families of the victims in remembrance of the attack that killed 184 people when hijacked American Flight 77 plowed into the building.

The Coast Guard began the drill at 9:30 a.m., five minutes after Obama arrived at the Pentagon for ceremonies keyed to 9:37 a.m. – the time of the 9/11 attack. Other agencies were not widely notified of the drill because the Coast Guard considered the exercise routine.

Currier said the Coast Guard must be vigilant around the clock and no apology was necessary for conducting a routine drill. Still, he said, "We're going to take a good hard look at what we did here today and ensure that if we need to modify procedures, if we need to modify notification, we will do so in the future."

Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano asked the Coast Guard commandant, Adm. Thad Allen, "for a full account of what happened," said Sara Kuban, speaking for the secretary.

A group for military families expressed outrage over the timing and setting of the exercise.

"Absolutely inexcusable," Military Families United said in a statement. "September 11th is a day to remember the loss of 2,973 innocent victims in New York, Pennsylvania and the Pentagon; not a day to create an unnecessary panic near a terrorist's target."

Obama spokesman Robert Gibbs defended the Coast Guard's decision to train in the Potomac on the Sept. 11 anniversary.

"I tend not to question law enforcement in keeping the nation's capital safe," he said. "If they feel they need a training exercise, best not to second-guess."

As for the errors of the networks, he said: "Before we report things like this, checking would be good."

CNN anchor Kyra Phillips said the network had called the Coast Guard and was told "We don't know what you're talking about," but went on the air anyway based on a reporter's other sources.

Departures from Reagan National, which is also along the Potomac, were halted for about 20 minutes, delaying 17 flights until the confusion cleared.

When it did, CNN's Phillips commented that the Coast Guard and the network might have both learned something from the oddly timed exercise and the misreporting of it.

"This was the perfect teaching moment," she said.

___

Associated Press writers Devlin Barrett and Joan Lowy contributed to this report.
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Annjeannette
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« Reply #3 on: September 11, 2009, 06:59:39 pm »


Jason Linkins
jason@huffingtonpost.com | HuffPost Reporting

CNN's Sloppy Reportage Needlessly Panics Nation

First Posted: 09-11-09 12:55 PM   |   Updated: 09-11-09 02:41 PM


Thanks to CNN's overactive imagination, news consumers experienced a brief dose of 9/11 nostalgia panic as a routine Coast Guard training exercise magically transformed into a touch-and-go bit of terrorist interdiction on the high seas! It's September 11, 2009, and everyone is bored and bloodthirsty.

Here's the breathless account from CNN, all 100% panic-induced fantasia:

    The U.S. Coast Guard tried to prevent a boat from entering a security zone on the Potomac River not far from the Pentagon Friday, where President Obama had been at an event commemorating the Sept. 11 attacks.


    There were reports on police scanners that the Coast Guard fired 10 rounds of ammunition, but those reports could not immediately be confirmed. It was not immediately clear from the reports whether they referred to warning shots.

    The incident took place between the Memorial and 14th Street bridges, in a zone that had been blocked off because of the ceremonies.

    The timing of the incident was not immediately clear, but President Obama had departed the Pentagon shortly after 10 a.m. ET. Reports of the incident came in shortly after 10 a.m. ET.

    When contacted by CNN, the Coast Guard Command Center said it had no immediate information.
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Annjeannette
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« Reply #4 on: September 11, 2009, 07:02:58 pm »

But Michael Roston, writing over at True/Slant, flags a concurrent report from the Associated Press that managed to get it right AND to actually include contacting the Coast Guard for response, which CNN couldn't seem to manage:

    The Coast Guard was conducting a training exercise in the Potomac River moments before President Barack Obama and his motorcade crossed a nearby bridge.


    Coast Guard Chief Keith Moore said Friday no shots were fired as part of the exercise. Media reports suggested shots had been fired in the river.

Roston goes on to point out that CNN went right ahead, insanely escalating the story:

    Already, CNN, who manufactured this fake story, is quoting President Bush's hyperpartisan former Homeland Security adviser Fran Townsend as saying that this was "felony stupidity." When the "Air Force One" fly by in Lower Manhattan occurred, hundreds if not thousands of people bore witnesses to something that tremendously freaked them out - there was video and photos taken that showed what a freak out incident it really was.

Via DCist, here's a picture of the training exercise. You'll note the incredible lack of similarity to the lower Manhattan Air Force One fly-by.
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Annjeannette
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« Reply #5 on: September 11, 2009, 07:03:18 pm »

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Annjeannette
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« Reply #6 on: September 11, 2009, 07:03:45 pm »

Jake Tapper reports that White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs assigned blame for the panic to CNN and more or less scoffed at the notion that the Coast Guard should be held responsible:

    The White House spokesman said the Commander-in-Chief would not "micromanage" the Coast Guard's decision to hold the exercise, and he chastised the press -- in honor of those who died on 9/11 and the future victims of terrorrism -- telling reporters to tell themselves "We may not get this first, but we may be the first ones to get it right."


    Asked if 9/11 was an appropriate day for such a training exercise, Gibbs said, "I tend not to question law enforcement trying to keep the nation safe."

    He said media should "check before reporting" such events, and suggested other training exercises are likely going on right now that we don't know about, and rejected any comparison with the Air Force One flyover of Manhattan.

This whole matter calls to mind a comparison that was easily made between cable and local news back on September 11, 2001. On that day, I recall CNN anchors breathlessly reporting all sorts of insane rumors including one about a bomb at the State Department. That was when I changed the channel to my local ABC station whose reporter, with perfect timing, was saying, "I am standing outside the State Department right now and everything is fine."

That's how CNN managed to propagate a fake panic across the news wires today. There was a silver lining, however, as CNN's report forced MSNBC to cover the story as well, briefly interrupting their traditional "September 11 Terror **** Screensaver" that they run every year, and which they really, really, really need to stop doing.

[Would you like to follow me on Twitter? Because why not? Also, please send tips to tv@huffingtonpost.com -- learn more about our media monitoring project here.]
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