Oh, here we go...I love the White Houses response after their little N.Y. flyby photo-op earlier this year...
WASHINGTON (CBS) ― The Coast Guard conducted a training exercise in the Potomac
River near the Pentagon amid Sept. 11 commemorations Friday, sparking confusion that scrambled FBI agents and led the nearest airport to briefly ground flights.
Coast Guard Chief Keith Moore said Friday no shots were fired as part of the exercise in the river. Media reports suggested shots had been fired in the river and showed vessels circling in the water, near the bridge where President Barack Obama's motorcade passed as he traveled to a Sept. 11 memorial at the Pentagon Friday morning.
Erroneous live cable news reports on CNN and Fox had said that the Coast Guard was firing shots on the river. CNN reported the Coast Guard had fired 10 rounds at a suspicious boat, and showed vessels circling in the water -- near the bridge President Barack Obama's motorcade crossed on the way to a memorial at the Pentagon earlier Friday morning.
The president was not in the area when the training exercise took place, the Coast Guard said.
The Associated Press reported that an exercise was under way in the river and did not report that shots were fired.
The president was not near where the training exercise took place, Coast Guard Chief of Staff Vice Adm. John Currier said at a news conference.
Currier said as part of its exercise, the Coast Guard aired simulated instructions to participants to fire 10 rounds and someone said "bang, bang, bang" to verbalize compliance. He described the exercise, which started at 9:30 a.m., as a "low tempo" drill.
Currier said no apology from the Coast Guard for the confusion was necessary, but that the service would review its procedures and make any needed changes.
He also said the exercise was handled by a field office in Baltimore and not the Coast Guard's Washington headquarters.
The White House defended the Coast Guard's decision to hold the exercise in the Potomac on the Sept. 11 anniversary. Spokesman Robert Gibbs said if law enforcement felt there was a need for the exercise, it's "best not to second-guess."
Gibbs said he didn't believe the White House was notified about the exercise. He sharply criticized CNN for airing the inaccurate report that shots were fired.
"Before we report things like this, checking would be good," Gibbs said.
In a statement released by the Coast Guard, officials said the problem arose when media reporters overheard radio calls made during the training exercise:
"We are still gathering information of how this training event might have been misconstrued as an actual incident. We will conduct a thorough review of this incident.
"There were Coast Guard boats were operating in the vicinity of 14th Street and Memorial Bridges this morning. Whether or not these were the same boats using the marine radio frequency used for training purposes has not yet been confirmed.
"The best way that we in the Coast Guard can remember Sept. 11 and our security obligations to the nation is to be always ready and this requires constant training and exercise. To ensure the appropriate readiness posture we conduct training scenarios across the nation on a daily basis.
How and when this exercised was conducted will be reviewed."
Departures from Reagan National Airport were halted as a precaution at 10:08 a.m., then resumed at 10:30 a.m., Federal Aviation Administration spokeswoman Diane Spitaliere said. The airport borders the Potomac.
A law enforcement official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said federal agents scrambled to the river scene after the initial reports, because the local FBI office had not been told ahead of time about the exercise. The official spoke on condition of anonymity because the official was not authorized to discuss the incident.
Coast Guard spokesman John Edwards said references to shots fired were picked up in radio chatter. As part of its exercise Friday, the Coast Guard aired simulated instructions to participants to fire 10 rounds. But Edwards said there were no shots actually fired and there were no suspicious boats.
Obama had traveled to the Pentagon to lay a wreath in a ceremony commemorating the eighth anniversary of the terrorist attacks.
The Department of Homeland Security was created in response to the 9/11 attacks. The Coast Guard and the Secret Service were placed within the department. The massive reorganization was designed to promote sharing of information within the department and among other law enforcement agencies.
A group for military families expressed outrage that the training exercise was held near the Pentagon at the same time families of those who died during the Sept. 11 attacks had gathered there for a memorial.
"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," Military Families United said in a statement.
Earlier, President Obama, observing his first Sept. 11 as president, had signed an order declaring it a day of service. He had first lady Michelle Obama marked a moment of silence outside the White House as a bugler played taps.
The president said the nation came together after the attacks, "united not only in our grief but in our resolve to stand up for the country we love."
In late April, a huge presidential passenger jet and two F-16 fighter planes whizzed past the Statue of Liberty and the lower Manhattan financial district as part of a photo shoot, sending panicked office workers streaming into the streets and evoking memories of 9/11.
After that incident, Obama said it was a mistake and promised it would not happen again. The director of the White House's military office resigned after the incident.