AF1The average pasta strainer holds water better than the tall tales the White House has been telling to explain the ill-thought flyover of New York City on April 27th by on e of the Air Force’s VC-25 aircraft (that’s a Boeing 747 to most of us) that adopts the call sign of ‘Air Force One’ when the President of the United States steps on board.

Forced to respond to swift and scathing reactions from New York officials and residents (as well as the indignation voiced by pundits and citizens across the nation) to the low-altitude aerial mission that was executed over ground still bearing the spiritual scars of the 9/11 attacks that killed more than 2,000 Americans in the World Trade Center, the Obama administration’s explanations have been flustered and unsatisfying.

Almost before the smell of jet fuel had cleared from the air over New York Harbor, the Air Force confirmed to the Wall Street Journal that the flight was an “aerial photo mission” and unnamed government officials told The New York Times reinforced that explanation.

From the April 27th New York Times’ City Blog:

The mission on Monday, officials said, was set up to create an iconic shot of Air Force One, similar to one that was taken in recent years over the Grand Canyon.

The initial reaction of White House press secretary Robert Gibbs – a man who must have been vaccinated against any risk of contracting personal charm – was vintage Gibbs: “I was working on other things. You might be surprised to know that I don’t know every movement of Air Force One.”

The White House should have stuck with the Alfred E. Neuman defense. Instead, when the White House Press Corps began doing their jobs, requesting more details about who planned and authorized the mission, and a statement of when the photos from the flight would be available, the official line became too hard to swallow.

On May 4th, news outlets including CBS News reported that another unnamed administration official was quoted as saying that the photos from the April 27th mission were not going to be made public. The same White House that only days earlier confirmed that the mission was a photo-op. The New York Post article on the same subject clarified the White House’s position:

The photos have not technically been “classified,” a White House aide said, but they are being kept from public view.

Namaste, Team Obama. That’s some master-level semantic yoga, but fails to pass the smell test. The jump from a shoot to capture “iconic” photos to having said photos “kept from public view” is inducing vertigo in the growing number of people paying attention to this story.

Since when does the government spend $328,835 to snap iconic pics of the First Aircraft that will be stamped classified as soon as the film is developed?  All liberal jokes about the oxymoronic concept of military intelligence aside, this is not how the government works.  Publicity shots are taken for the express purpose of being made public.

The realization of this obvious contradiction must be why Gibbs informed the White House Press Corps, in Wednesday’s briefing, that “a photo” from the flight would be released, in an attempt to bluff the public into accepting that as a reversal of the administration’s policy of preventing the public from seeing what its shared funds paid for. This White House is more clever than many of its predecessors in its use of language, routinely concocting phrases such as “create or save” as hollow promises that can withstand legal scrutiny. “A photo” is not enough to satisfy my curiosity about what was really taking place on the plane that was buzzing New York City on April 27th.

Half answers are tools politicians frequently use to obfuscate, and this from an administration that professes to be dedicated to transparency and honest dealings with the American people. (Reference the Presidential Memorandum re: Transparency and Open Government that was issued just after President Obama was inaugurated.)

Unequal Time aims to find out more about the nature of the mission, who planned it, and who was on board through a series of requests made under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA).  Email requests were transmitted yesterday to the 89th Airlift Wing stationed at Andrews Air Force Base, the command that maintains and operates the aircraft known as Air Force One, among others.  Those emailed requests will be followed up by fax and regular mail today, just in case something is fouled up with the Gorenet.

Additional requests are being drafted to other government agencies, although higher-profile sleuths like Michelle Malkin have already begun sniffing down many trails that may yield information being withheld by the Obama administration.

Some of the items requested pertaining to the planning and execution of the mission include:

  • Photographs or digital images taken in the interior spaces of the aircraft during the mission;
  • All manifests documenting passengers boarding the aircraft during the mission, and all other manifests; and
  • Copies of all correspondence pertaining to the between the 89th Airlift Wing and: the White House Military Office, the White House Chief of Staff, the Department of Defense, the Secretary of Defense, the White House Photo Office, and all other parties.

We anticipate full cooperation from the White House on these requests in accordance with their commitment to transparency, as referenced above. After all, the President issued another Inauguration Day memo on this one, as well.

Unequal Time will update its readers on the progress of these FOIA requests.


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