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Cessna Story Illustrates Government Problem, Rumsfeld Says

By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service

PHILADELPHIA, May 25, 2005 – 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 here today.

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 said."

Today's Post 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 article."

"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 plane."

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 regular basis."

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."

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Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld


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