CNN Explains Potomac Incident Coverage
Network: It Would Have Been "Irresponsible" Not To Report What It Was 'Hearing and Seeing'
John Eggerton - 9/11/2009 4:45:57 PM EDT

CNN said Friday that it would have been "irresponsible" not to report what it was "hearing and seeing" as radio transmissions reported rounds being fired and Coast Guard vessels moving rapidly in the Potomac as the president's motorcade crossed nearby Memorial Bridge.
That came in a statement in response to the Coast Guard's confirmation that it was only a "routine" drill, and suggestion that the media's interception of a radio transmission had escalated the incident, including causing the FAA to hold some flights at nearby Reagan National Airport.
"As with any breaking news story, information is often fluid and CNN updated the story with the official explanation from the Coast Guard as soon as it was provided," said the network.
A Coast Guard official earlier in the day said that they would review their protocols with an eye toward avoiding a repeat of the misunderstanding, but also did not apologize for holding the drill on Sept. 11 and without warning the media or other government officials.
CNN released the following statement: "After hearing a U.S. Coast Guard radio transmission that a boat had breached a security zone on the Potomac River a short distance from the Pentagon where the President had just attended a 9/11 anniversary ceremony, CNN contacted the Coast Guard public affairs office at the agency's headquarters. The Coast Guard spokeswoman said she was unaware of any activity taking place on the Potomac River.
"After hearing a further radio transmission about 10 rounds being expended, and after reviewing video of rapid movement by Coast Guard vessels as the President's motorcade crossed the Memorial Bridge, CNN reported the story. Simultaneously, during a second phone call, the Coast Guard spokeswoman informed us that its National Command Center and other command posts knew nothing about any activity in the area.
"Given the circumstances, it would have been irresponsible not to report on what we were hearing and seeing. As with any breaking news story, information is often fluid and CNN updated the story with the official explanation from the Coast Guard as soon as it was provided. "
CNN also released a transcript of the radio transmission it overheard to explain why it went with the story.
That included the following exchange:
:24 You're approaching a coast guard security zone
:50 You're in a coast guard security zone
1:50 If you don't stop your vessel you will be fired upon. stop your vessel immediately
2:00 If you don't slow down and stop your vessel, and leave our zone you will be fired upon.
2:18 still in the zone, still in the zone
2:25 someone saying: bang, bang, bang
2:35 we have expended ten rounds, the vessel is operating at stern. we're going to reassess the situation.