Wednesday, May 25, 2005

Weekly Airspace Scare Time

A Little over a week ago, I questioned the rules of engagement concerning DC airspace (see Airspace scares become the norm and Order to Shoot). Today, there is confusion over whether Rumsfeld gave an order to shoot down a plane yesterday. The latest episode of airspace violations has done nothing to help me understand.

Bryan Whitman, a Pentagon spokesman, declined to talk about the military's specific rules of engagement involving incursions by aircraft into restricted air space around the U.S. capital region. But he said if the situation had reached a certain point, commanders with the North American Aerospace Defense Command, or NORAD, would have asked for Rumsfeld's involvement.

I'm still trying to find out what the rules of engagement are for a plane flying over DC. Right after 9/11, the media made it sound like Bush had to give the order.

Yesterday, a U.S. Homeland Security official confirmed an Associated Press account that discussions are underway about transferring the duties of the customs aircraft to the U.S. Coast Guard. Airborne customs agents, as law enforcement officers, have discretion to use lethal force against pilots if lives are threatened. For the military to down a civilian aircraft, the order must come through a strict chain of command. The Coast Guard can follow rules of engagement similar to the military, officials said.

HEY - here's the answer! Except it's a non-answer:
Mr. Whitman said he could not go into details because the Pentagon does not divulge rules of engagement. Those rules, instituted after the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, which included a commercial jet crashing into the Pentagon, cover situations in which to shoot down unresponsive aircraft.


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