Washington -- Hours before the official announcement that President Barack Obama had landed in Kabul, Afghanistan for a surprise visit, the media -- both social and electronic -- were already buzzing with reports about the trip.
Had he indeed landed in-country? Was it just a rumor? Should it be reported anyway?
Before the day began, the administration issued what was later revealed to be a fake presidential schedule, having the president and vice president in meetings throughout the day at The White House.
Early Tuesday morning, an Afghan official told CNN that the palace staff in Kabul were instructed to go home at noon local time, 3:30 a.m. ET, sparking rumors of a VIP visit to the city.
Then, shortly after 9 a.m. ET, Afghanistan-based 24-hour news channel TOLONEWS filed a Twitter post announcing the president's supposed arrival in Afghanistan. (The tweet has since been deleted from their feed).
@TOLOnews "BREAKING: United States President Barack Obama has arrived in Kabul to meet Afghan President Hamid Karzai."
Minutes later, The Huffington Post's Joshua Hersh retweeted @TOLOnews with a question:
@joshuahersh "Is this right?RT @TOLOnews BREAKING: United States President Barack Obama has arrived in Kabul to meet Afghan president Hamid Karzai"
But, at 9:32 a.m, the U.S. Embassy in Kabul announced via Twitter:
@USEmbassyKabul "Reports that President Obama is in Kabul are false."
That was enough to send the Twitterverse and traditional media buzzing. The New York Post posted a story on its web site shortly after 10 a.m. reporting the president was in Afghanistan.
"Obama arrives in Afghanistan report says; White House denies it," read the Post's headline. The story was later removed from the paper's web site.
"Where is Obama" read a similar headline on The Drudge Report. Many of the publications that posted early reports on the president's visit later pulled their stories. However, The Drudge Report kept its post up.
At the time, all those reports were wrong -- or at least premature -- according to the administration. The White House later reported Air Force One actually landed in Afghanistan at 2 p.m. ET
Yes, the president had indeed secretly traveled to Afghanistan, a trip loaded with symbolism on the one-year anniversary of Osama Bin Laden's killing. But virtually all of the major media organizations that were in a position to have known about the trip did not report it until it was officially announced around 3 p.m. ET.
The trip took place in the wake of security questions raised last month following a scandal that erupted when several members of a Secret Service advance team in Cartagena, Columbia solicited prostitutes before the president's arrival at the Summit of the Americas. And in March, several news outlets, at the White House's request, removed stories about daughter Malia Obama's spring break trip to Mexico.
But balancing news interests against security interests is nothing new for White House reporters.
CNN's John King, host of John King USA, said he faced a similar challenge during a trip to Iraq with then-President George W. Bush, as he visited newly-minted Prime Minister Nouri al Maliki.