By G Oguda
I found some spare time so I tried gathering some facts on the Secret Service and why they protect the US President the way they do. Some notes:
1. The Secret Service was not founded on paranoia, the chilling fact is that someone has always wanted to kill the President of the United States. President Andrew Jacksonâ€™s life was spared when shots from a madmanâ€™s gun misfired. Abraham Lincoln was shot and killed at a theatre, James Garfield was killed by an insane man at a train station.
2. Despite the attacks, Americans were reluctant to authorise protection until President William McKinley was assasinated by an anarchist and Congress finally agreed to charge the Secret Service with Presidential protection. Even then, their authorisation was to be renewed annually.
3. Fifty years later, a brutal gun battle in front of the Presidentâ€™s House settled the question of permanent protection once and for all. That was in November 1950, when White House was still under renovation and President Harry Truman was living in Blair House when two gunmen, of Puerto Rican descent, open fire at 2 Secret Service officers manning the front door killing one SS agent.
4. The mandate of the SS is simple: â€˜Protect the man, protect the symbol, protect the office.’ The Secret Service Strategy is to meet any threat to the President with overwhelming force. ‘When you travel with the President around the world, you must ensure that he is as safe as he would be inside the White House.’
5. When the President is travelling out of the White House, it is called ‘leaving the Bubble’. The SS advance team maps out the most secure route for the motorcade, identifies potential sniper positions, pinpoints safe houses along the way, locates the nearest hospitals and arranges for the President to have his own blood supply there. ‘When your mission is to protect the president of the United States, you donâ€™t underestimate the enemy’.
6. Then there is a room that comes with information so sensitive that its information can never be revealed – The Joint Operations Centre. This is where the Secret Service tracks the movement of the President, The First Family and the Vice President in real time.
7. On the road, the President’s official car is known as Cadillac One, or Limo One, or simply â€˜The Beastâ€™. The Beast is kept in the basement of Secret Service Headquarters on A Street. One of at least Two, the identical vehicles are built, under a classified contract, by General Motors.
8. The Beast seats up to seven people, two at the front and 3 with the president at the back. The custom designed superstructure is more of a tank than a car consisting of a 8-inch thin armoured plating with bodywork made from a combination of hardened steel, aluminium, titanium and ceramics. Itâ€™s heavy armour-plated doors are 20 centimetres thick, heavier than a cabin door of a Boeing 757 jet.
9. The cabin of The Beast include a sealed air re-circulation system that protects the president from a biochemical attack. The windows can withstand armour piercing 44 calibre bullets. The bullet is actually the least dangerous element for The Beast but rather the fragments that comes with it. So the glass of the Beast is designed to slow down the bullet and absorb the impact of the shooting so it is amalgamated with a polycarbonate to absorb all the glass fragments that would have scattered into the chamber.
9. The fuel tank is protected by a special form that prevents it from explosion if it suffers from a direct hit. Certain aspects of the vehicle are tightly controlled secrets. For example, no one knows how much the vehicle weighs although unofficial sources put the weight at around 7-8 tones.
10. The Beast is packed with the pump action shotgun and night vision cameras. It is also armed with tear gas cannons capable of blacking you out for 12 hours unconscious. It can also fire infrared smoke grenade, in case it is attacked by a rocket propelled grenade or missile.
11. For an emergency transfusion need, bottles of the President’s blood are kept on board. It also has an oxygen supply tank and advanced fire fighting equipment on board. The car runs on 19.5-inch Goodyear RHS tyres that are found in super tough trucks. Mechanically, the car gets power from a 6.5-litre Duramax diesel engine that can attain a top speed up to 100 kilometres per hour and uses 29 litres of fuel for every 100 kilometres.
12. The Beast possesses run-flat tyres reinforced with Kevlar. They are shred and puncture resistant, with steel rims underneath. The car can easily survive if the tyres are blown away. Thanks to the steel rims, the car can drive at high speeds even without the tyres.
13. Who’s authorised to drive the Beast? Manoeuvring The Beast is a hard task, it is not a vehicle that is comfortable to drive. You are looking through ballistic glass, which distorts your vision. It is speculated that the car’s driver has access to a special video system that allows him to drive in darkness, smoke and other no-visibility conditions.