Security procedures for new Oval Office incumbent?
November 3, 2008 8:50 PM   Subscribe

White House changeover security: who's responsible, and what do they do?

I hope this isn't too chatfiltery, but...I was speculating just now about the security processes involved in moving one dude out of the White House, and the next dude in.

There's a scene in the Tim Powers novel Declare where a bunch of spy types are sitting in a meeting room at 10 Downing Street. One of them covertly (naturally) installs a bugging device and it is mentioned that this won't be activated until an an opposing party assumes government.

A thing like this sounds perfectly possible, even probable to me, especially given the track record of the present U.S. President's administration and his appurtenant cronies. So with that in mind, can anybody point me to any online or real-world text resources that might give me some insight, no matter how superficial, into what, exactly, is involved in moving the old and busted President out, and the new hotness President in?

Those amongst you who possess any personal insight into the matter are likewise encouraged to contribute. Who gets involved? Who is responsible for ensuring not only the safety of the Oval Office, but the security of the persons inside it and, more directly, the security of what they say while they're there?
posted by turgid dahlia to Grab Bag (9 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
In Al Frankens Lying Liars... he makes reference to the bush administration doing some foul play when they moved in.
posted by Large Marge at 9:14 PM on November 3, 2008

[A few comments removed. This can in theory be a citing-actual-information thread, and if it stays that way I'm fine with it. Please let's not have "chatfilter" become a self-fulfilling prophecy here.]
posted by cortex (staff) at 9:24 PM on November 3, 2008

Wouldn't it be the Secret Service?
posted by D_I at 9:52 PM on November 3, 2008

Who is responsible for ensuring not only the safety of the Oval Office, but the security of the persons inside it and, more directly, the security of what they say while they're there?

Obviously, the Secret Service is responsible for the personal security of the President. There is a White House police force, now known as the Secret Service Uniformed Division. I'm sure there are things that other executive agencies -- the FBI, CIA, NSA, etc. -- may have some responsibility for, but ultimately it is the Secret Service.

As to whether Obama or any incoming President can truly trust those who handle his personal security, that is essentially an open question. (Compare more than a few banana republics.) There are always going to be people in the government who woulda voted for the other guy. The President-elect's detail, however, will have been with him for months and presumably have developed some personal loyalty.

See also brandman's post on the presidential transition.
posted by dhartung at 11:06 PM on November 3, 2008

One thing to mention is that the White House staff work for the US government, not the administration. So their loyalty is to the presidency, the government and the building, not the person. (There are always shenanigans, but I suspect they are more of the personal, petty nature than treason. And it would be terribly, terribly difficult to bug the White House- I would imagine it's a fairly secure location, and it's pretty far from any public property. Any electronic signals would probably be fairly quickly discovered.)

Also, regarding the Secret Service, these guys are hard core. From every indication I've seen, they are absolutely, totally committed to the concept of protecting the President of the USA. No matter who that is.

The history of the White House is fascinating. Truman didn't live there for almost the entire time he was president- after 13 years of FDR, the place had to be literally gutted to get the old man smell out of it. There's a really awesome photo in one of his biographies of the inside of the main building, completely gutted, with bulldozers driving around inside. I haven't been able to find it online anywhere, however. So yeah, I know, good story.
posted by gjc at 4:54 AM on November 4, 2008

It appears that there is an entire article on MSNBC regarding this entire change-over process.
posted by kasperj74 at 9:15 AM on November 4, 2008

gjc - This one?
posted by djb at 10:26 AM on November 4, 2008 [1 favorite]

Wouldn't it be the Secret Service?

Yeah, I knew that much from X-Men and Beavis & Butthead, but I also figured that the Secret Service would have a few distinct divisions with particular responsibilities, and was curious as to which people did what, and specifically, what they did.

Great answers so far, guys. I love the renovation pic.
posted by turgid dahlia at 2:02 PM on November 4, 2008

djb- excellent! Yes, that's the one. Thank you.
posted by gjc at 6:57 PM on November 4, 2008

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