L.A. Mayor Blindsided By Terror News

An airplane passes behind the U.S. Bank Tower, formerly known as the Library Tower, in downtown Los Angeles Thursday, Feb. 9, 2006. President Bush said Thursday the U.S-led global war on terror, with multinational cooperation, foiled purported terrorist plans to fly a commercial airplane into the Los Angeles skyscraper in 2002.
AP
President Bush's disclosure of new details about a foiled 2002 terrorist plan to destroy the city's tallest building has strained relations between the White House and the mayor of Los Angeles, who accused the Bush administration of taking too long to tell him of the new information.

Mr. Bush detailed the planned attack in a speech Thursday, saying terrorists intended to use shoe bombs to hijack an airliner and crash it into downtown's 73-story U.S. Bank Tower.

Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa said he got word of the new details like everyone else — watching Mr. Bush's speech on TV. He said his office should have been warned beforehand about the announcement, which set off a new round of anxiety over terrorism in the nation's second-largest city.

"I'm amazed that the president would make this (announcement) on national TV and not inform us of these details through the appropriate channels," the mayor said in an interview with The Associated Press. "I don't expect a call from the president — but somebody."

Villaraigosa also criticized the White House for rebuffing requests in July and August to meet with the president to discuss security issues.

As it turns out, the White House did notify City Hall, if indirectly. A spokesman for Matt Bettenhausen, California's homeland security chief, said he personally contacted a deputy mayor Wednesday afternoon with advance notice of the president's comments.

Michelle Petrovich, spokeswoman for the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, said the agency notified the Los Angeles Police Department, along with state officials, that the 2002 plot would be mentioned during the president's speech.

Villaraigosa later confirmed that City Hall was notified Wednesday. But that information was only general, city officials said, and the mayor was never informed. They said they had no warning that numerous new details of the plot would be disclosed.

CBS News senior White House correspondent Bill Plante says that while the president did add some new details, the story of the West Coast plot was already known. So why talk about it now?

The White House said it was to point out the importance of international cooperation in foiling the al Qaeda plan.

"It took the combined efforts of several countries to break up this plot. By working together, we took dangerous terrorists off the streets. By working together, we stopped a catastrophic attack on our homeland," Mr. Bush said Thursday.