| President George W. Bush ( left in cap) returns to the White House after the security scare. (AFP)
Washington, May 12 (Reuters): President George W. Bush was not told for nearly an hour while he finished a bike ride about a breach in White House airspace yesterday that prompted the highest alert since the September 11, 2001, attacks, the White House said.
The White House said the Secret Service held off informing the President because he was not in danger.
Bush was about a half-an-hour into his ride at the Patuxent Wildlife Research Center in Maryland when an unidentified Cessna airplane came near the White House, sending the Secret Service scrambling to evacuate vice-president Dick Cheney and move First Lady Laura Bush to a secure location.
White House spokesman Scott McClellan said the President’s Secret Service detail was informed about the plane at about 11.59 am (local time), when the decision was made to raise the threat level at the White House to “yellow.”
Fighter planes were immediately scrambled to intercept the plane, and the threat level at the White House was raised all the way to “red” before the “all clear” was given at 12.14 pm (local time).
McClellan said Bush was informed about the incident around 12.50 pm (local time) at the end of his ride. He left the reserve around 12.57 pm (local time) and returned to the White House at around 1.30 pm (local time), well after the security scare had ended.
“A determination was made that the threat posed no danger to the President since he was at an off-site location, and protocols were in place to protect people in the area of the threat,” McClellan said.
“Given such circumstances and the fact that the plane turned away from the White House, the decision was made to inform the President upon conclusion of his bike ride,” McClellan said.