LOS ANGELES - Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa said Thursday he was blindsided by President Bush's announcement of new details on a purported 2002 hijacking plot aimed at a downtown skyscraper, and described communication with the White House as "nonexistent."
"I'm amazed that the president would make this (announcement) on national TV and not inform us of these details through the appropriate channels," the Democratic mayor told The Associated Press. "I don't expect a call from the president - but somebody."
The White House and the state Homeland Security Office said they informed city officials Wednesday of Bush's upcoming remarks.
Bush has referred to the 2002 plot before, but he publicly filled in the details Thursday.
Bush said Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, the alleged mastermind of the Sept. 11 attacks who was captured in 2003, had begun planning an attack to fly a commercial airplane into the tallest skyscraper on the West Coast, the Library Tower in Los Angeles, since renamed the US Bank Tower.
Instead of recruiting Arab hijackers, Southeast Asian men would be used, Bush said, because they were less likely to arouse suspicion. He said they would use shoe bombs to blow open the cockpit door.
The president said the plot was derailed when a Southeast Asian nation arrested a key al-Qaida operative. Bush did not name the country or the operative.
White House spokesman Scott McClellan said Los Angeles officials were told about the president's remarks a day before his speech.
"And the word I heard was that there was great appreciation for the notification that we provided,'â' he said during a briefing.
A spokesman for the state Office of Homeland Security confirmed that the agency's chief personally contacted a deputy mayor Wednesday to share the president's planned comments.
"We were assured that that information would go to the mayor," spokesman Chris Bertelli said.
Villaraigosa later confirmed that City Hall was called Wednesday by state officials in Sacramento. But that information was only general, city officials said, giving no hint that the announcement would contain extensive new details on the hijacking plot that targeted the nation's second-largest city. That message never reached the mayor.
"I would have expected a direct call from the White House," Villaraigosa said at a news conference.
In addition, the mayor said, he had twice pushed for meetings with Bush on visits to Washington to discuss security risks in the city. Those requests were made "to no avail," Villaraigosa said.
Earlier, the mayor said homeland security needs better funding, including for the protection of high-risk targets in Los Angeles.
He said some money could be redirected from the war in Iraq, but he did not advocate an immediate withdrawal of troops.