The US President is probably the best-protected human being in the world, but it’s neither possible nor desirable too hide him 24/7 on a military installation in a bunker. Compromises have to be made.
When the President is making a public appearance, the venue as well the people who will be able to get near the President are carefully screened well in advance. I assume there is some type of police perimeter around the location but the character of the operation would essentially be civilian, law enforcement. A single gunman, somebody wearing an explosive belt or a knife-wielding maniac wouldn’t be able to harm the President.
But let’s assume there is a group of 50 militia type extremists who are willing to sacrifice their lives just to kill the President. These people are driving SUVs and are heavily armed with automatic rifles and explosives.
Would these attackers be able to overpower the Secret Service agents and other law enforcement personnel with brute force when the President is making a public appearance in front of the town hall in a suburb of Cleveland?
The bigger the conspiracy the harder it is to hide it. This is why the FBI investgates people who seem to express extreme views about society, if they appear to threaten violence (and have been raked over the coals for investigating dissenting groups when there is no reall indication of violent tendencies).
It would be a miraculous group that could organize such an activity without drawing attention. We have already seen that 9-11 happened as much through a tragedy of errors on the part of several intelligence and law enforcement groups as through smart planning, and their target was not any VIP, just ordinary citizens in a random location(s).
Another thing to consider - where do you get the money? A fleet of SUVs, housing food and entertainment for 50-plus adults, etc. - one of the failings of Baader-Meinhoff or the SLA or the IRA and almost every other such group is they eventually descend to crime to finance their day-to-day operations. Very few have a sugar-daddy like bin Laden.
Then there’s the overall intelligence (in many senses). The SS backup plan is usually to bundle the POTUS into a car and make a getaway. Which of the cars? Which direction? Movies always seem to gloss over how they get the getaway route or other details, but any hint that someone is sniffing around for that info sets off alarm bells, as does people casing the site, etc.
Plus, along with secret service there are probably hundreds of police for crowd control.
One of the things I love about the typical Dr. Evil movies is wondering where he comes up with those evil henchmen who come running out the door or something just to get shot. As G. Gordon Liddy and Oliver North have shown, even dedicated patriotic types come with interesting problems; the 9-11 types were such idiots it’s a wonder Moussaoui was the only one caught - two of them stalled a plane during training and couldn’t restart it, locked it up and walked away leaving it blocking a taxiway in a major airport. Only in the pre-paranioa days before 9-11 could such arrogant behaviour not draw attention.
If you rely on a collection of doomsday types, conspiracy nuts, or flat-earthers or some such, what mentally stable types will end up in your “army”?
I’m thinking that the crowd is going to play a major role in the outcome of the attack. Political rallies often have quite a number of people, especially so for the President.
It sounds like something in front of a town hall would require the men to get out in front of the event and force their way through. Aside from the fact that the armed and trained Secret Service men are going to be both working immediately to get the President out and delay/neutralize the threat; the militia are also going to have to force their way through a large and panicky crowd. Even assuming that nobody plays hero, wading/shoving/gunning their way through a crowd will slow them considerably.
Even if that’s not the case, I’d still imagine that the Secret Service are prepared for quite a lot when it comes to events like this.
Google Obama motorcade on YouTube and look at the number of black SUVs and white secret service vans he travels with. Also once they get Obama into the everything proof limo hes a hard target. I wonder how close to backstage they keep that thing parked?
There was quite a bit of outcry prior to one of Bush’s visits to London when it was leaked that the USSS was planning on bringing an SUV with a minigun mounted in the back.
That kind of fire power, snipers, counter-sniper teams, visible protective detail, uniformed police, rapid response teams (e.g. HRTs), decoy vehicles and one of the most armoured limousines in history make hitting the president with anything (custard pie included) almost impossible.
The Royal Family and the UK Government have no where near that level of protection and the best the IRA ever got was killing an MP by car bomb, and killing Mountbatten by bombing his fishing boat. They tried to lob some mortars at Downing Street, and managed to blow out the windows, and they bombed the hotel in Brighton during the Tory conference, but failed to injure anyone in the cabinet both times. The IRA were pretty clever, but they weren’t stupid or suicidal.
British tabloids published embarrassing pictures of Angela Merkel taken at a public beach some years ago. These pictures were shot by a paparazzi who could have easily used a sniper rifle instead of a camera. There also was an incident with a privately operated security camera which pointed directly into an apartment which Merkel uses in in the center of Berlin.
GSG 9, BTW, isn’t charged with protecting the Chancellor. That’s the job of a unit in the Federal Criminal Police Office.
True story. In 1992 Bill Clinton and Al Gore were at a rally just two blocks away from my office. Our building manager invited us up on the roof, with its unobstructed view of the whole area.
When we walked out on the roof, we greeted by not one but several Secret Service agents who wanted to know what the hell we thought we were doing there. Once the building manager convinced the agents we were okay, we settled in to watch the rally. Looking around from our rooftop location, we could see sharpshooters with rifles on all the surrounding rooftops, the pattern of traffic barricades and chokepoints around the rally, and a large number of helicopters around the area.
Remember, this was 1992, and Clinton and Gore were just candidates, not yet POTUS and VP.
The point of this anecdote is, if you think you see a lot of security, there’s a hell of a lot more you don’t see. The SUV’s might get within a couple of blocks, but 50 armed guys are going to set off a few alarm bells before they ever get within target range.
I believe that was Charles DeGaulle, who survived five attempts without ever being seriously wounded.
I was at a rally today for Obama in Durango CO (Pop. 15,000). Two ex-governors spoke briefly to a friendly crowd. I counted six Secret Service (Suits, Sunglasses, Earpieces) There could have been more plainclothes. In addition there were uniformed cops in all four directions, about a block away. So, roughly one tenth of the attendance was law enforcement. If a bunch of rednecks had stormed the place, people would have gotten hurt, but not the principals.
The strongest case of this I ever saw was in a waiting area/bar (?can’t remember exactly) at Ben Gurion airport in Tel Aviv, with a bored-looking “plain clothes” security guy making sure everyone saw him looking into each potted plant.
From what I understand, the only reason Reagan’s first term wasn’t ended by a deluded git is because said git picked an underpowered weapon. If several had been there, they could have covered several exits and shot a lot. I imagine security measures have changed then.
POTUS sometimes makes speeches in the White House garden, right? What overlooks it?
I’m not sure a suicide bomber would be ineffective, especially if the bomb is placed inside the body (yup, it happens. We apparently live in a cyberpunk novel).