Friday, December 09, 2011

How Does This Work?

After a holiday party at Blair House, President Obama checks out White House security...
President Obama strolled across the street from the White House to join NSC staffers at a holiday party at Blair House this afternoon, shortly after 1:00 PM. After about fifteen minutes, he returned to the White House, and entered through the gatehouse at the Northwest Gate. When on foot near the White House, the President usually just walks through the double-wide iron gate in the driveway, and does not get checked by the Secret Service Uniformed Division officers on duty. Today he had different plans. (Above: The President and an officer in the gatehouse)

"I just wanted to see what it was like getting in here," he told the officers.

The gatehouse is the entrance used by members of the media and other visitors, and after ID checks, visitors' belongings are run through a screening machine. Visitors themselves walk through a megnatometer, and are then "wanded" by officers.

"I think I beeped a couple of times," the President afterwards told Bill Press, a reporter from the pool. The President patted the pockets of his overcoat, as if for keys or a BlackBerry.

The officers in the gatehouse later told Press that the President set off the metal detector as he went through, which they credited to his cellphone. The President shook hands all around, and talked football, telling the officers he's a Bears fan.

The most famous security breach of the Administration occurred during the first State Dinner in 2009, in honor of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh of India. Tareq and Michaela Salahi, a couple from Northern Virginia, "crashed" the dinner through a White House entrance in the East Wing, where guests for social occasions enter. It became the subject of international headlines and a Congressional hearing. Security protocols were changed after the breach.

Thousands of guests will attend 15-17 holiday receptions hosted by the President and First Lady this month, including one for members of the media this evening.

*Photo by Pete Souza/White House; the photo became Photo of the Day on the White House blog.