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News Wrap: Training Exercise Prompts Security Concerns

September 11, 2009 at 12:00 AM EDT
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In other news, a Coast Guard training exercise in Washington caused security concerns during the nearby 9/11 anniversary services, and the world's oldest person died at the age of 115.
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TRANSCRIPT

JIM LEHRER: In other news today, a Coast Guard training exercise in Washington touched off a flurry of confusion as 9/11 anniversary services were taking place at the Pentagon.

NewsHour correspondent Kwame Holman has this report.

KWAME HOLMAN: Four Coast Guard security boats darted and dashed across the Potomac River this morning in a planned, but unannounced exercise. Both CNN and Fox News broadcast live aerial pictures of the boats on the river and reported shots had been fired. CNN reported the Coast Guard had fired 10 rounds at a suspicious boat near the bridge President Obama’s motorcade crossed.

The reports drew FBI agents to the scene and prompted the Federal Aviation Administration to call a brief halt to flights at Ronald Reagan National Airport farther down the river.

Later, Coast Guard Chief of Staff Vice Admiral John Currier explained it was all a routine exercise, no shots were fired, and the media reports were wrong.

VICE ADMIRAL JOHN CURRIER: During that exercise, they were discussing their tactics, their training as they normally do on channel 81, which is a Marine frequency, a discreet Coast Guard channel that apparently was intercepted by a member of the public. Their discussions were taken out of context. And what we’ve seen is a reaction to a training exercise that really was just that.

What you see here is a loop between what actually happened, press reports, and the uncertainty that was generated by that because of the high profile of the press reports and the fact that other agencies due to that uncertainty reacted as they normally would.

KWAME HOLMAN: Currier said the president was not in the area at the time. He said a “top to bottom review” of the incident was underway. Both the White House and the U.S. Park Police said they had not known about the exercise.

JIM LEHRER: Later, CNN said it would have been “irresponsible” not to report what it was hearing on Coast Guard radio transmissions. It said it updated the story after getting the official explanation.

On Wall Street today, stocks slipped after a five-day advance. The Dow Jones Industrial Average lost 22 points to close at 9,605. The Nasdaq fell 3 points to close just below 2,081. For the week, the Dow gained more than 1.5 percent; the Nasdaq rose 3 percent.

The world’s oldest person has died at a hospital in Los Angeles. Gertrude Baines was 115 years old when she passed away today. She was born in Shellman, Ga., in 1894. At the time, Grover Cleveland was president and the U.S. flag had only 44 stars. A woman in Japan now becomes the world’s oldest human. She is 114 years old.