Controlling the Message

When the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) declared Ferguson, Missouri a no-fly zone I immediately thought it did so to suppress media coverage of police brutality. I’m cynical by nature so it’s nice to be surprised once in a while. But this isn’t one of those cases:

The FAA records official phone conversations at its air traffic facilities, a policy that is known to employees. The initial flight restrictions hindered planes from landing at Lambert-St. Louis International Airport unless they violated the no-fly order. The recordings show FAA officials seeking police agreement the next morning to change the designation of the restricted area to allow air traffic into Lambert and then struggling with the wording of the no-fly order in an effort to prevent media from entering of the restricted area.


Second Kansas City manager: “I went into the system and picked law enforcement … and of course it puts the one in that says nobody can be in there except the relief aircraft. …

Unidentified FAA employee: “Now what’s relief aircraft? …”

Manager: “It’s whoever the police want in there at that point when it’s a law enforcement one. The problem is, this is a very unusual situation … because normally these are, you know, a mile (radius) and 1,000 feet (in altitude), you know, to keep media out …”

FAA employee: “Hang on. Why are we even having that? Because, I mean, if it’s just for media, like you said, then why is it so big? And, otherwise, we thought that it might’ve been for them trying to take pot shots at somebody. You know anything about that or anything?”

Manager: “I was talking to Jim, the FLM (front-line manager) in the tower, and I was talking to Chris at St. Louis County Police. The commander at St. Louis County wanted 3 (nautical) miles and 8,000 feet and I talked him down to 3 and 5. They finally admitted it really was to keep the media out … but they were a little concerned of, obviously, anything else that could be going on.”

Manager, later in the same conversation: “I’d like you to talk to the tower and get the coordination going again with the police department. They did not care if you ran commercial traffic through this TFR (temporary flight restriction) all day long. They didn’t want media in there. … There’s no option for a TFR that says, you know, ‘OK, everybody but the media is OK.'”

This shouldn’t surprise anybody considering all of the other ways police in Ferguson were abusing reporters. It should, however, make you upset because it shows yet again how corrupt modern policing is and how little the so-called freedom of the press matters. As with most cases of police corruption the likely outcome of this mess will go without consequences for the police who were suppressing news coverage.