Wednesday, October 01, 2014

An Ever-Expanding List of Unwelcome Visitors to the White House

SEPT. 30, 2014

WASHINGTON — American presidents like to refer to the White House as “the people’s house,” and over the past two centuries, a surprising number of uninvited people have made their way in.

Long before the latest fence jumper captured international attention by getting as far as the East Room, the history of White House security breaches was vast and varied. One intruder in a white karate outfit carried in a knife hidden in a Bible. A stranger slipped in to watch a movie with President Franklin D. Roosevelt. And a pilot crashed his Cessna into the mansion.

Theodore Roosevelt once agreed to see a man who identified himself as “Mr. John Smith” and insisted he had an appointment, even though the president did not recognize him. But after talking with him for a bit, Mr. Roosevelt quickly changed his mind. “Take this crank out of here,” he ordered an usher. In the man’s back pocket, it turned out, was a large-caliber pistol.

Over the decades, the Secret Service has installed more and more barriers to keep out the unwanted, even as presidents struggled to preserve their home as welcoming to visitors. Roads have been closed to traffic, gates fortified, ballistic windows installed and sharpshooters deployed on the roof. Yet that has not always stopped the determined, the curious and the mentally unstable from trying to force their way in.

(More here.)


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