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Profile: Barnett A. (“Sandy”) Kress

Barnett A. (“Sandy”) Kress was a participant or observer in the following events:

Sandy Kress.Sandy Kress. [Source: Publicity photo]Sandy Kress, President Bush’s unpaid education adviser, meets with Bush in his hotel on Longboat Key, Florida, to brief him on their planned 9 a.m. visit to the Emma E. Booker Elementary School in nearby Sarasota. With them are Secretary of Education Rod Paige, Bush’s senior adviser Karl Rove, and White House Chief of Staff Andrew Card. Kress goes over some key points for the talk Bush is due to give to the press after reading with the students at the school. However, Kress will later recall that the “president is a very punctual person,” and “I’ve never known him to be late.” Yet, “we finished the briefing on that fateful day, and we continued to talk for another ten minutes about people and politics in Texas. The time to leave came and passed.” Kress adds, “That struck me as unusual.” (Kessler 2004, pp. 136-137; Kress 9/10/2006) According to the official schedule, the president is supposed to leave the resort at 8:30 a.m. for the drive to the school. (Martin 7/4/2004) Yet, according to one account, he will not leave until as late as 8:39 (see (8:35 a.m.) September 11, 2001). (Sammon 10/7/2002)

Secret Service agents inspecting the luggage of members of the media travel pool at Sarasota-Bradenton International Airport.Secret Service agents inspecting the luggage of members of the media travel pool at Sarasota-Bradenton International Airport. [Source: Steve Nesius / Associated Press]Secret Service agents subject reporters and other individuals who are traveling with President Bush to a strict security check as they are getting onto Air Force One. Bush’s motorcade has now arrived at Sarasota-Bradenton International Airport in Florida, where Air Force One is waiting (see (9:43 a.m.) September 11, 2001). (Sammon 2002, pp. 99; Keil 9/2004) The plane’s crew members have been told there is a “great potential that we are going to be under attack sitting on the ramp” at the airport, according to Colonel Mark Tillman, the pilot. They have also been told there are “unidentified people all around the airport,” and that there is a “possibility that we were subject to the plan to go ahead and assassinate the president” (see (9:04 a.m.-9:55 a.m.) September 11, 2001). (Tillman 9/11/2011) Reporters who are heading for the rear entrance to Air Force One are stopped by Secret Service agents and ordered to drop whatever they are carrying for a security sweep. (Sammon 2002, pp. 99) One reporter, White House correspondent Richard Keil, will later recall seeing “a dozen additional Secret Service agents” at the airport, “each with bomb-sniffing dogs.” “We usually have our bags inspected only once in the morning, as long as we remain inside the secure ‘bubble’ in which the president travels,” Keil will write. But now, “everyone’s bag had to be re-swept.” (Keil 9/2004) Even staffers who are wearing special lapel pins showing they are White House employees have their belongings checked by the bomb-sniffing dogs. (Sammon 2002, pp. 99) Passengers also have to confirm who they are before being allowed onto the plane. “There was a lot of attention to our credentials, who we were,” Sandy Kress, Bush’s senior education adviser, will comment, adding: “We had to show ID and our badge, not just the badge. And this even though the crew knew most of us.” (Graff 9/9/2016) Meanwhile, a military aide standing at the foot of the rear entrance to the plane snaps: “If you’re not essential, you’re not getting on the airplane! We gotta hurry up and get out of here.” (Sammon 2002, pp. 99) Tillman will recall that Secret Service agents and the plane’s own security staffers are “double, triple-checking the manifest,” and the bomb-sniffing dogs “search everything” that comes onto Air Force One. “We didn’t want to take any chances,” he will comment. (Tillman 9/11/2011; Tillman 2/29/2012 pdf file) The mood, according to journalist and author Bill Sammon, is “extraordinarily tense.” (Sammon 2002, pp. 99)

Members of President Bush’s staff decide to remove any nonessential passengers traveling with the president on Air Force One when it leaves Barksdale Air Force Base, Louisiana, and determine that they will leave behind some congressmen, numerous White House staffers, and most of the journalists that have been accompanying them. (Plunket 11/2001; Sammon 2002, pp. 118; Fleischer 2005, pp. 145; Rove 2010, pp. 259)
Reporters Traveling with President Reduced to Five - While the president’s staffers are preparing to leave Barksdale, Bush’s chief of staff Andrew Card pulls White House press secretary Ari Fleischer aside and tells him they need to reduce the number of people flying on the president’s plane. Usually, when the president flies, numerous personnel get to his destination ahead of him to prepare for his arrival, but at the present time, Bush’s support team is limited to those already on Air Force One. “Given the heightened sense of security,” Fleischer will later recall, “the Secret Service didn’t want the president to wait for the normal entourage to board the makeshift motorcade that would be assembled upon landing.” Card says the traveling White House staff is going to be reduced and the members of Congress on board will also be left behind at Barksdale, and he tells Fleischer to decrease the number of reporters flying with the president. Card wants the pool of reporters reduced from the current 13 to three, but agrees to Fleischer’s request to make it five. Fleischer decides the reporters that remain with them will be Ann Compton of ABC Radio, Sonya Ross of the Associated Press, Associated Press photographer Doug Mills, and a CBS cameraman and soundman. (Fleischer 2005, pp. 145-146) White House assistant press secretary Gordon Johndroe passes on the bad news to the reporters. While they are waiting on a bus to be driven back to Air Force One, he comes on board and tells them there will only be five seats on the president’s plane for the media. (Keen and Carney 9/11/2001)
Reporters Angry at Being Left Behind - The reporters and nonessential personnel remaining at Barksdale Air Force Base will be standing on the tarmac and watching as Air Force One takes off from there, heading for its next destination (see 1:37 p.m. September 11, 2001). (National Journal 5/3/2011) Some of the reporters will be angry at being left behind. As the president and his entourage are approaching the plane, Reuters correspondent Steve Holland will shout out to Fleischer, “Ari, what about us?” Another angry reporter will call out, “Who’s in charge here, the military or the civilians?” (Fleischer 8/8/2002; Fleischer 2005, pp. 146)
'Skeleton Crew' Remaining on Air Force One - As well as the eight reporters, others removed from the plane include Representatives Adam Putnam (R-FL) and Dan Miller (R-FL), Bush’s senior education adviser Sandy Kress, Bush’s personal aide Blake Gottesman, and several Secret Service agents. (Keen and Carney 9/11/2001; Plunket 11/2001) Fleischer will recall that after the nonessential passengers have been left behind, those who continue on Air Force One are just “a skeleton crew.” (Fleischer 8/8/2002) Those remaining at Barksdale will be escorted to a building and stay there until another plane flies them from the base back to Washington, DC, later in the afternoon (see (3:30 p.m.) September 11, 2001). (Plunket 11/2001)


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