To down or not to down? Rumsfeld’s instructions on wayward Cessna kinda unclear

Our erudite and pithy cousin at FishbowlDC notes a weird inconsistency in the case of the wayward Cessna, now back in the news with reports that Donald Rumsfeld did – or didn’t – give the command to shoot it down if necessary. This morning, the Washington Post ran this banner headline: “Military Was Set To Down Cessna: Authority Granted As Plane Strayed Deep Into Capital,” and led by saying that yes, Rumsfeld had indeed given military officials the authority to down the plane if necessary. The Post cites “two senior federal officials.”

But this afternoon the New York Times said no, Rumsfeld didn’t give the go-ahead (“No Order to Down Stray Plane, Pentagon Says”). Reuters corroborates.

So what gives? Did Rumsfeld order the plane downed or not? The Pentagon is saying no, via spokesperson Bryan G. Whitman, who said the anonymous senior officials “are clearly misinformed” (and, therefore, so was the Post). But as our Fishy friend in D.C. notes, the Post had two sources, plus “a senior federal law enforcement official briefed on events” who “corroborated” what the others said. So, we repeat, what gives?

That’s not a rhetorical question, we have no clue.

Military Was Set To Down Cessna [WaPo]
No, It Wasn’t [New York Times]