WASHINGTON – The White House issued a strong warning yesterday to all pigeons considering flying over the White House: Think twice.
“The President and the Defense Secretary are sending a strong message to these birds, any that are considering breeching the airspace, that we will not tolerate reckless, careless flying around or near the White House, Capitol, or any other government buildings here in Washington,” White House spokesman Scott McClellan said in a press briefing Thursday. “The days of birds being ‘free to fly’ where they please, or whatever that pipe dream is, are over.”
McClellan said Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld has advised all F-16 fighter jet and Black Hawk helicopter pilots assigned to D.C. area security that the new policy regarding pigeons entering restricted airspace is to shoot them down without hesitation. “I might add,” McClellan said, “that this policy is likely to significantly reduce the amount of bird poop around the area as well, what with so many less birds left to produce… that poop. So that’s another positive. Although, I imagine there will be a sharp increase in bird carcasses on the ground and such. So it’s a give and take. You get more carcasses, less poop. I don’t know about you, but I’ll take less poop every time. And so will this administration.”
The policy change comes after an incident Wednesday in which a small Cessna errantly flew into restricted airspace, at one point coming within three miles of the White House. Officials said yesterday they considered shooting down the plane.
McClellan, asked if he felt the White House was overreacting to the incident with their policy change, considering the relative potential threat posed by pigeons, responded, “I think that’s just what Al Qaeda wants, is for us to say, ‘Oh, they’re only pigeons.’ This administration and this president are not going to make that mistake. Cute little birds can be as much of a threat as, uh, as ugly men. That’s what we’re saying. And all we’re asking is for patriotic pigeons to obey very clear laws regarding airspace. Truly American birds should have no difficulty. I don’t see bald eagles having a problem, do you? What I do notice, I must say, is that pigeons are very prevalent in Paris and other parts of France. I’m just… I’m not insinuating anything. I’m just pointing out a fact.”
President Bush was nowhere near the White House at the time of the incident, though he is rumored to work there. Biking in Maryland, the president was not informed by his security detail about the misguided plane until he finished his bike ride, some 40 minutes after the ‘all-clear’ was sounded. “I can assure you all necessary precautions were taken to protect the leader of this country,” McClellan said. “The implication that they were not is absurd. Vice President Cheney was safely removed from his office and brought to safety.”
Asked about the decision not to inform the president immediately about the incident, a Secret Service agent speaking on the condition of anonymity said, “Well, you tell me what you would do. If you tell him, you have to explain what ‘airspace’ is, and the whole morning’s gone.”