9/11: Bush aide Andy Card increased security after Tony Blair 'joke'
President George W Bush’s most senior aide was forced to drastically increase his security soon after the September 11 attacks because Tony Blair joked that he was an al-Qaeda target, he has disclosed.http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/northamerica/usa/8742189/911-Bush-aide-Andy-Card-increased-security-after-Tony-Blair-joke.html
Andrew Card became internationally renowned when he was photographed in a Florida classroom whispering into the president’s ear that United Flight 175 had struck the World Trade Centre in New York.
His message – “A second plane hit the second tower. America is under attack” – provoked a stunned silence from Mr Bush that became one of the day’s most enduring images and alarmed his critics.
But thanks to Mr Blair, the photograph also had a less well-known impact nine days after the attacks, which Mr Card described publicly for the first time during in an interview with The Daily Telegraph.
On September 20, the prime minister watched Mr Bush address a joint session of Congress in Washington. At one point he was memorably told by the president: “Thank you for coming, friend”.
“After the address, he walked into the Sergeant-at-Arms’s office and saw me,” said Mr Card, who served as White House chief of staff between January 2001 and April 2006.
“He said: ’Andy, it’s so good to see you. You’re a marked man. You’re a target for every terrorist out there. They use that picture of you whispering to the president as target practice’.” Mr Card said Mr Blair appeared to be joking that he had received this information from British security officials. But it was taken absolutely seriously by their American counterparts.
“I showed up in my office later that night,” said Mr Card. “In walked the head of the secret service. He said: ‘We own you 24/7, starting now’.
“It completely changed the way I was living my life,” he said. “I went from having privacy to being in their hands 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
“They were outside my house 24 hours a day. They travelled with me and my wife wherever we went, whether to the local grocery store or on a trip to Iowa, Maine or Massachusetts,” he said.
Mr Card, now 64 and a senior adviser to Fleishman Hillard, the PR firm, emphasised this was “all because” of Mr Blair’s comments. But he also stressed that he was not complaining.
“They became like family,” he said. “My children and grandchildren loved the secret servicemen and women that served us. I was honoured that they thought I was important enough to protect”.
Mr Card, who described himself as “the invisible chief of staff”, said he wished he had been able to deliver his famous message in the Oval Office, so that it “wouldn’t have been captured on camera”.
He said he feared the picture’s notoriety could distract from “how sad it was for the victims, and how unbearable it was that so many policemen and firemen answered the call to duty and then gave themselves in a final sacrifice and were martyred, if you will,” before adding: “I shouldn’t have used that term”.
And in a strange coda, he said Mr Blair’s warning appeared to have been well-placed during an incident almost exactly a year later, when his son, Drew, was getting married in Poland Spring, Maine.
“We had someone show up to the wedding,” said Mr Card. “They knew too much about me, and were asking odd questions. The next thing I knew, the fellow was on the ground with handcuffs on. The secret service ended up taking him away and uncovered a number of weapons in his vehicle.”