The email sent to [New York] City Hall describes a "flying photo op" -- government-speak for a publicity photo -- to include two or possibly three passes over the area. The email, sent by an FAA official and reviewed by The Wall Street Journal, lists flight patterns and specifies a photo-op altitude of 1,000 to 1,500 feet.
The email specifies that the information "only be shared with persons with a need to know" and "shall not be released to the public." It also says that, "Due to the possibility of public concern regarding [Department of Defense] aircraft flying at low levels, coordination with Federal, State and Local law enforcement agencies...has been accomplished."
The email's author, James J. Johnston, of FAA air traffic, declined to comment.
An Obama administration official said the mission was "classified" by the military and that the FAA, which controls much of the airspace over Manhattan, did what the military asked. "The mission was to send [the aircraft] up to get a picture of it flying around the Statue of Liberty," this person said. "They said they needed to update their photo files." President Obama wasn't aboard.
Louis Caldera, a former Secretary of the Army who runs the White House Military Office, took the blame. "While federal authorities took the proper steps to notify state and local authorities in New York and New Jersey, it's clear that the mission created confusion and disruption," he said. "I apologize and take responsibility for any distress that flight caused."
Mr. Caldera met Monday afternoon with White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel and Deputy Chief of Staff Jim Messina "to hear the president's displeasure," an official said.