Dear Mr. Boyer:
Your April 23 letter to Roger Ailes was forwarded to me. After consulting with our correspondent and producer, I have to tell you that I believe we behaved exactly as we should have in reporting on the security at Indian Point.
There was no misrepresentation in either the process of putting the story together or in its presentation. Our team contacted several flight schools and charter companies, in each case identifying themselves as FOX NEWS and asking if they could rent a plane to fly over the Indian Point Nuclear Power Plant in Buchanan, New York.
In each case the flight school or charter company checked FAA regulations and responded that there was no problem with such a flight as long as it remained above 2000 feet and did not circle.
The team chose a flight school out of Teterboro because of the availability of the plane. They informed the school of the story about nuclear plant security and evacuation routes. They clearly stated to the pilot that they would ask him, as he flew over the plant, what would prevent someone from crashing into the facility. He agreed to answer the question. His answer is on the video used in the story. As for checking identification, there was a cursory look at their credentials in the parking lot before take off.
The pilot, who behaved in a totally professional manner, filed a flight plan stating he was flying over the plant but said it was normal procedure for any flight. He said in the air that the Hudson was a we11-used flight path for small planes because it provided a clearly visible route to pilots. When asked if anyone could do the same thing, the answer was an emphatic yes.
Our team did what anyone, including terrorists, would do to get within a ten second striking range of the plant. The only deterrent was a cursory check of credentials in the parking lot. A school official asked to photocopy them—after the flight returned.
The script clearly makes the point that an aircraft of the size used would not, under ordinary circumstances, have been capable of carrying enough explosives to cause structural damage. What we learned, and did not report, is that a small plane on a windy day could slow to virtually a stall by flying into the wind. Given the right conditions, and loaded with explosives, a small plane could potentially focus the explosive blast sufficiently to damage the pools and expose the fuel rods. We have outtakes that we elected not to use that would clearly make that point.
In short, we stand by our reporting. There is nothing about the story that is wrong, sensational or misleading. It shows that viriually any plane can reach the airspace of a nuclear reactor and the consequences of allowing that could be tragic.
Senior Vice President
April 23, 2002