...NORAD Chasing Phantoms

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In the eye of the security storm around Washington, FAA officials brace for a rash of airspace violations whenever good VFR weather happens on the weekend. And if it's not enough that F-16s and Blackhawks are sent in pursuit of the numerous real targets that blunder into the Washington zones, sometimes they have to chase phantoms, too. Last Thursday, Vice President Dick Cheney and some staff were sent wherever important folks are sent in a security alert after what might have been a flock of geese set off the high-tech alarms watching the White House. Lt. Col Rob Garza, of the North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD), told The Washington Post that scrambling the F-16s was the right thing to do on Thursday when a blip showed up within five miles of the White House. "There was a radar return and any there's a radar return of a possible airspace violation, our folks are going to respond," Garza said. Cheney and the staff were back at work in 15 minutes and now NORAD is looking at its tapes to see what might have caused what is assumed to be a false return. The blip didn't show up on FAA radars.