Barack Obama’s security circus arrives in Oz: In Pictures

CSO's Neerav Bhatt jumps through hoops to get key security clearance to be 5 meters away from Barack Obama

  • The president’s motorcade vehicle Cadillac One is popularly known as “The Beast”. Based on a Cadillac chassis, the car is heavily customised with armour, sealed against chemical attack and brimming with communications equipment.

  • President Obama flew from Darwin to Bali for the East Asia Leaders Summit which is also being attended by Chinese President Hu Jintao and Russian representatives. Indonesian Police are in charge of local security and arranging clearways through the packed Bali traffic.

  • Cadillac One’s super-thick shielded doors can be seen clearly as Jeffrey L. Bleich, United States Ambassador to Australia enters the vehicle.

  • Secret service agents watched from ground and elevated viewing areas over the crowd of US Embassy staff and their families waiting for President Obama’s arrival.

  • Marine One is the air traffic control callsign for Navy helicopters which are transporting the president to locations which cannot be accessed by Airforce One or if a motorcade would be logistically difficult. While it is believed that Marine One travels with the president on overseas trips in a cargo plane it was not made use of in Canberra or Darwin. Photo Credit: “Official White House Photo by Pete Souza. Used with permission”.

  • The National Archives holds comprehensive passenger records for ship and aircraft arrivals and departures for all Australian ports from 1924 onwards.

    These passenger records are available to the public under the provisions of the Archives Act 1983 when they reach the open period (recently reduced from 30 to 20 years afterwards).

    In 1975 a young Barack Obama filled in a Sydney Airport Customs Card during a short stop over between Indonesia and the USA.

    Interestingly National Archives told CSO that “passenger records are released in their entirety, no information is exempted”. CSO has blurred out Barack Obama’s passport number in the customs card pictured above.

  • According to the Canberra Times the ACT government approved 35 vehicles in the Presidential motorcade. Many of the motorcade vehicles we saw were Chevrolet Suburbans with Maryland licence plates. An ACT Ambulance containing Paramedics was placed at the tail end of the motorcade throughout the visit. 
  • US Embassy staff and their families wanting to catch a glimpse of President Obama queued up for security checks at the entrance to the embassy.

  • A mixture of print, photo, radio and TV media had been transported by a security cleared bus from a rendezvous point at Old Parliament House to the US Embassy. After security checks we were kept in a white plastic tent in the car park for 2 and half hours prior to President Obama’s arrival. All media photographers were required to make their way to the embassy by 7am and leave SLR cameras and lenses in this same tent for security checks before leaving the embassy only to return a few hours later.

  • CSO photojournalist Neerav Bhatt went for a walk down Constitution Avenue, along the edge of the Parliament Zone at the time President Obama was landing in Canberra. He was soon approached by 2 Australian Federal Police (AFP) officers who asked to see his media ID and the photos he had taken before saying that’s OK you can keep walking.

  • The AFP is in charge of close personal protection, route security and other security areas for diplomats and visiting heads of state in conjunction with state/territory police. AFP officers in Canberra and Darwin secured the area along presidential routes.

  • An estimated 200 secret service agents joined ACT police, the AFP and the local guard force of private security at the US Embassy to protect the President and his staff. President Obama’s codename is Renegade and yes the cliché is true, all the secret service agents we saw wore suits, sunglasses and many were wired up to get audio instructions.

  • One of the major announcements made by President Obama during his trip was that there would be an increased US military presence in Northern Australia. Initially a Company size (250 marines) will be based near Darwin by mid-2012, rising to 2500 in total over 5 years. Also more US military aircraft will transit through Australian bases in Northern Australia.

  • A National Visits Media Card (NVMC) identifies the holder as a person certified by a registered media organisation as having a legitimate media interest in the visits of foreign dignitaries. To get an NVMC you have to pass a higher level of security clearance than routine federal government events. Applicants for a NVMC undergo identity checking by the Protective Security Risk Section in the Security Coordination Branch of the Attorney-General's Department.

  • American military personnel helped to defend Northern Australia in World War II including during and after the Japanese bombing raids on Broome and Darwin.

    President Obama visited some US WWII memorials including the USS Peary memorial during a brief visit to Darwin while enroute from Canberra to Bali.

  • Media had to empty pockets and camera bags at another set of security gates inside the US Embassy before being scanned for dangerous items.

  • Air Force One is not one specific plane but an air traffic control call sign for the US Air Force plane the US president is travelling on. However the usual Air Force One plane is one of a pair of custom Boeing 747-200B planes first used by President George H. W. Bush in 1990. These 747’s are shielded to protect electronic systems against Electro-Magnetic Pulses (EMP) such as those caused by a high altitude nuclear explosion. In essence Air Force one provides a mobile White House for the President including full military command centre capabilities should hostilities break out while he is in the air. Photo Credit: “Official White House Photo by Pete Souza. Used with permission”.

  • Several RAAF Boeing F/A-18 Hornet fighter jets, Blackhawk and other Helicopters patrolled the airspace above Canberra prior to and during President Obama's visit.

  • After jumping through countless hoops to get the required set of security clearances and approval by the US Embassy to photograph the President’s visit CSO can see why these steps were justified.

    Our photojournalist Neerav Bhatt was less than 5 metres away from the world’s most heavily secured individual - the President of the United States of America, Barack Obama.

  • Journalists jostled for position as President Obama’s vehicle approached. TV crew and photographers were given priority to stand at the front of the roped off area.

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