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Bush Taken to Bunker After Radar Blip

Reuters | April 27, 2005

WASHINGTON - President Bush was hustled from the Oval Office and into an underground shelter on Wednesday after a blip on a radar screen was initially mistaken for an aircraft entering the restricted airspace around the White House, officials said.

The Secret Service determined minutes later that it was a false alarm. A flock of birds or a reflection could have caused the blip. Officials said the investigation was ongoing.

Vice President Dick Cheney also was moved to a secure location as Secret Service agents, some with shotguns drawn, cleared the area in front of the presidential mansion.

White House spokesman Scott McClellan said the president was in the underground bunker for a "very short amount of time." He said he believed it was the first time Bush had been taken to the shelter since the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.

"There were some precautionary measures that were taken. It was quickly learned that it was a false alarm and that all was clear in a very short amount of time," McClellan said. "Everything is fine."

Officials blamed the incident on a blip that appeared on a radar screen. Helicopters sent up to investigate quickly verified that there was no errant aircraft.

"Out of an abundance of caution, appropriate security measures were taken," said Brian Roehrkasse, a Homeland Security Department spokesman.

On heightened alert after the Sept. 11 airplane attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon , the White House has had several similar false alarms.

In a November 2003 scare, two Air Force F-16 fighters were scrambled to secure the airspace over the White House after a blip on radar, possibly caused by birds rather than a plane, sent scores of White House staff and tourists fleeing the executive mansion.


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