Rep. Pete Hoekstra of Michigan, the top Republican on the House Intelligence Committee, tells NRO that the Coast Guard incident in the Potomac River this morning is already looking like a “comedy of errors.”
Hoekstra cautions that since details about the incident are still emerging, he is wary of making any definitive conclusion. Still, he says, “Why the Coast Guard would think of doing a training exercise on 9/11 is beyond me. I hope the Coast Guard conducts a thorough review of what happened, why it happened, and if serious mistakes were made.”
“For eight years, we have all wondered if [terrorists] would hit again on 9/11. We’ve all become more sensitive about this date, so to be conducting exercises at roughly the same time as the original attack eight years ago raises alarm,” adds Hoekstra.
When asked whether today’s event is similar to the late April incident when a huge presidential passenger jet and two F-16 fighter planes flew past the Statue of Liberty and lower Manhattan, Hoekstra says there are differences between the two, since those flights “were done at the direction of the White House.” Nonetheless, he observes, “a big plane flying low over New York is a bad idea without doing lots of notification before hand. A training exercise on the Potomac near the Pentagon on 9/11 seems like a really bad idea, unless there has been total notification elsewhere.”
“Hopefully the Coast Guard will now review its procedures and approval mechanisms,” says Hoekstra. “They say ‘we run training exercises every day,’ but let’s hope others run more successfully than this.”
For now, Hoekstra says, the incident reveals how “these agencies still make mistakes. I don’t draw a conclusion that says they still can’t get it right. I do draw a conclusion that they still can’t get it right all of the time. But it’s still a system that is run by people. People make mistakes. That’s what happened this morning, assuming they got a protocol to say ‘call law enforcement, call the FBI,’ and inform people that they’re running a training exercise.”
And the Coast Guard should be more careful, says Hoekstra, because “on the news reports, it says that someone yelled ‘fire ten shots’ over the radio. You know people are monitoring these airways. They’ve always known that. It just shows that it’s a human system. People didn’t follow procedures. This whole thing will surely go into their book of lessons learned.”