A government document posted to the website of an unnamed Air Force base containing information about the anti-missile defense system of Air Force One, the president’s official airplane, has raised an alarm with Air Force officials who say the information “affects operational security.”
The San Francisco Chronicle reports that it passed on information about the website to the U.S. Secret Service last week. The data about the plane’s defense systems was said to be “specific.”
“It is not a good thing,” said Lt. Col Bruce Alexander, director of public affairs for the Air Mobility Command’s 89th Airlift Wing at Andrews Air Force Base, which operates the fleet of presidential airplanes. “We are concerned with how it got there and how we can get it out. This affects operational security.”
“Air Force One” is the air traffic control call sign of any U.S. Air Force aircraft carrying the U.S. president. Currently, two highly customized Boeing 747-200B series aircraft are maintained by the Air Force to be used solely as presidential transports.
The website document, which reportedly had not been removed as of Friday, contained detailed maps of the two plane’s interiors, including the location where Secret Service agents are stationed. The location of Air Force One’s medical facility “where a terrorist armed with a high-caliber sniper rifle could detonate the tanks that supply oxygen” was also shown.
But it was information about Air Force One’s anti-missile systems being placed in the public domain that was of greatest concern. Intelligence about the plane’s available countermeasures could help terrorists choose a more effective weapon or a different style of attack.
As WorldNetDaily reported, three U.S. congressman have confirmed they were aboard a C-130 flight to Kuwait from Iraq in January when they were attacked by a sophisticated Russian SA-18 shoulder-fired missile that required the U.S. plane to employ high-technology countermeasures to avoid being hit. The availability of the SA-18 to insurgent forces is seen as significantly increasing the danger for aircraft, particularly if it falls into the hands of terrorist groups that deploy them against civilian aircraft.
The U.S. Defense Department documents 43 civilian aircraft hit by shoulder-fired missiles worldwide. Thirty of those hit were destroyed, resulting in 900 passenger and crew deaths.
“It is tough enough for the Secret Service to do its job without this,” said Leon Panetta, former chief of staff to President Bill Clinton. “If I were still chief of staff, I would order the damned site (to) pull it down.”