When I arrived at work the other day there were snipers on the roof of our office building. Snipers, ready to snipe things with their rifles. All aflutter with this turn of events, I filled several people in via gchat. The exchanges usually went something like this:
ME: There are snipers on the roof of my office building!!
ME: Snipers! With rifles. To snipe things!
FRIEND: What? Why?
ME: Obama’s here. He’s started staying at the hotel across the street whenever he’s in L.A.
FRIEND: Oh. Ok.
No one was adequately impressed by the fact that every rooftop in the vicinity was crawling with Secret Service agents ready to put a bullet in anyone up to shenanigans. But the lack of enthusiasm from my nearest and dearest wasn’t going to dampen my excitement. And my excitement was considerable, because as of late I have become fascinated by the issue of presidential security.
This is in part because I’ve had to deal with it up-close-and-personal not once but twice in the past month — Obama just can’t seem to keep himself away from Los Angeles. And when the president is staying at the hotel directly across from your office, things get intense. There are snipers. There are bomb sniffing dogs. There are regular police, military police, and Secret Service agents setting up barricades days in advance. There are street closures and check points, and getting your car down the block and into the garage turns from a 2 minute process into a 20 minute one.
Then there’s the motorcade, whose presence ripples through the popular consciousness in a way that it never would in a place like Manhattan, where the normal folk travel below ground. Every time Air Force One touches down at LAX the city goes into full-on vehicular panic mode (though granted, this is something of a favorite Angelino pastime). Company-wide bulletins that speculate which parts of the city the Motorcade will pass through start appearing 2 days in advance. Rumors about street closures and alternative routes dart frantically from smartphone to smartphone. People start fingering the refresh button on Google Traffic around noon in anticipation of their 6pm commutes.
Although fascinating tidbits about security protocol fly around my office every time El Presidente decides to rest his head in the vicinity, I’m not sure those are fully reliable. So, I decided to do a bit of research on presidential security myself. While there is understandably not a lot of detailed information on this topic easily available, I did learn a couple of interesting things, particularly about the Motorcade.
The Motorcade carries approximately 20-30 different vehicles, which in addition to cars carrying president, VIP guests, staff, and members of the press, include several SUVs containing yet more snipers. These snipers actually ride with their guns cocked and pointing out the windows, ready to blow the head off of any of the aforementioned shenaniganers. There’s a specialized ambulance full of paramedics. There’s a communications van so that all of these different cars can be in constant contact. Someone in my office told me that because all the customized vehicles that comprise the motorcade have to be specially flown everywhere he goes, every time Obama boards a plane the government winds up dropping about $5 million.
And then, of course, there is the badass futuristic Batmobile steeze that is the presidential limo. I found a handy little graphic on some random website that gives an overview of the amenities built into the president’s sweet ride (click to enlarge):
Just in case you chose not to read the fine print, the president’s Caddy has a built-in blood bank and can spray tear gass into a crowd. I also read somewhere that it has some sort of anti-missile grenade launching system (in case, you know, anyone decides to launch a missile at it) and that the jetliner-weight doors to the passenger area don’t have handles, but instead open in response to a special hand trick known only by select members of the Secret Service.
Meanwhile, my Mazda doesn’t have power locks.