What is the most dangerous picture on the Internet?
There are a lot of dangerous pictures on the Internet…
But this one could have caused a multitude of damage if everything had gone wrong.
On the morning of 27 April 2009, one of the two 747 aircraft that are used for Air Force One, followed by an F-16 fighter jet, flew low above New York City’s Upper Bay for a photo op and training exercise.
Former President Barack Obama was not in the plane, nor was he aware of the flyby. Likewise, residents of New York and New Jersey were not made aware of the flyby either, and they, understandably, thought it was the beginning of a second 9/11.
Some New Yorkers took to the street in a panic. Buildings were evacuated.
The flyby was approved by then-director of the White House Military Office, Louis Cardera, to replace the above picture of the jet.
“[This was] crass insensitivity… I’d call this felony stupidity. This is probably not the right job for Mr. Caldera to be in if he didn’t understand the likely reaction of New Yorkers, of the mayor.”
~ Fran Townsend, Homeland Security advisor to George W. Bush.
Many people criticized the FAA for not informing the public of the flyover. Then-Senator Chuck Schumer (D-NY) said that whoever decided not to inform the public was “either cruel or very, very stupid.”
“It was a mistake. It was something we found out about along with all of you. And it will not happen again.”
~ Barack Obama, President (2008–2016)
According to some sources, the NYPD had been notified about the photo op but was instructed not to inform the public. Likewise, the mayor’s office, Secret Service, and FBI were informed of the apparent-secret too. According to an FAA memo obtained by CBS New York (WCBS), the aforementioned organizations were not allowed to reveal the secret— or federal sanctions would be imposed.
According to the White House Press Secretary at the time, Robert Gibbs, President Obama was “furious” upon finding out about the flyby.
“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.”
~ Louis Cardera, Director of the White House Military Office (2009)
As indicated above, Louis Cardera did not remain the director of the WHMO for long. On 8 May 2009, Cardera resigned, citing the furor over the incident