Cessna Story Illustrates Government Problem, Rumsfeld Says
There was absolutely no
truth to the Washington Post article saying Defense Secretary
Donald H. Rumsfeld ordered Air Force fighter jets to shoot down a
Cessna that intruded into restricted airspace, but the incident
illustrates an on-going problem the government face, Rumsfeld said
Speaking to the World Affairs Council, he used the Post story to
make a point. He said the global war on terrorism is the first to
be fought in an era of multiple global satellite television
networks, 24-hour news outlets and a global Internet "with
universal access and no inhibitions."
News organizations provide live coverage of terrorist attacks,
disasters and combat operations. Most westerners have access to
e-mail, cell phones and digital cameras. And many people have "a
seemingly casual regard for classified information resulting in a
near continuous hemorrhage of classified documents to the detriment
of our country," the secretary said. "We see almost daily that a
lie can make its way halfway around the world while the truth is
still getting its boots on, as Mark Twain was reported to have
reported that Rumsfeld had authorized Air Force fighters to fire on
the Cessna that flew into restricted air space over the Washington
area May 11. Two Air National Guard F-16s intercepted the small
plane and launched flares to get the pilot's attention. As a
precaution, authorities evacuated the White House and the Capitol.
The plane landed under escort at a suburban airport.
Rumsfeld said the paper relied on "two anonymous sources for the
"And of course," he added, "it wasn't true. I never even got on
the phone conference call to discuss the circumstance of the little
But the news networks, Internet "bloggers" and the newspaper
wires picked up the story and ran it all over the world. "Something
that was totally not true," Rumsfeld said. "And it happens on a
The problem, according to the secretary, is that the executive
branch of the U.S. government is organized for the Industrial Age,
and it is facing an Information Age problem.
"In short, the federal government is not well-equipped to cope
with the multiple issues that arise from every quarter 24 hours a
day, seven days a week," he said. "We continue to adhere to
peacetime constraints, practices, requirements and regulations
imposed during the Cold War, a period in anticipation of different
types of adversaries than we face today."