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Tuesday, October 23, 2018

Presidents That Used Recorders in the White House

White House Voice Recording Systems
Type of Activity
Tape Recording Conversations
Washington DC and Others
Date of Activity
 1940 through 1974 and maybe more
38°53'51.2"N 77°02'20.9"W

Did You Know:  U.S. Presidents Have Secretly Recorded                                                                                                       Conversations Since 1940

Forty-four years ago, Richard M. Nixon became the first (and only) U.S. president to resign his office. A prime reason for his unprecedented decision was the revelation of his White House recording system—which showed his effort to conceal a major abuse of executive power.

In an era of diminished expectations of privacy, Nixon and several of his predecessors, who wanted to preserve important facts that might come up during a meeting or during a telephone call, recorded nearly 5,000 hours of presidential conversations beginning in 1940.


President Franklin D. Roosevelt was outraged with The New York Times in 1939 for publishing what he called “a deliberate lie.” Someone who attended a meeting of the U.S. Senate Committee on Military Affairs in the White House quoted Roosevelt as saying that the country’s frontier lay on the Rhine River in Europe.

After that incident, the president’s stenographer suggested that he start recording his meetings. Roosevelt experimented with the standard dictation device of the time, a hard-wax cylinder recorder designed by Dictaphone, but the test proved to be unsuccessful. It had less than 10 minutes of recording capacity, and its microphone was often ineffective.
David Sarnoff, president of the Radio Corporation of America, offered Roosevelt an alternative recording device that the company had licensed from inventor John Ripley Kiel, who recorded sound by indenting patterns on a disc or ribbon instead of on a cylinder. It was, in the inventor’s words, the only “device that could record for as long as 24 hours unattended” and “immediately have the recording played back.” It was installed in the White House basement directly under Roosevelt’s desk in the Oval Office. A microphone was hidden in the president’s desk lamp, offered 180-degree sound pickup. Roosevelt pressed a button to activate the system, which then recorded only in response to sounds.

Roosevelt recorded 14 press conferences in 1940 during his toughest reelection campaign. The eight hours of recordings. After he won reelection, he never used the sound recorder again. It remained in the White House until 1947, when the National Archives took possession of it and transferred the recordings to acetate discs.


President Dwight D. “Ike” Eisenhower began recorded meetings upon taking office in 1953. The White House Signal Detachment (WHSD) installed a Soundscriber Tycoon dictation system in the Oval Office early that year.

A button in the president’s desk turned on a microphone hidden inside a fake telephone on the desk; the rest of the system’s components were housed in the adjacent office of his secretary, Ann C. Whitman. However, Eisenhower often would forget to turn the machine on at the start of a meeting, and many of the conversations he did record turned out to be indecipherable.

By 1955 the White House had switched to another dated but durable format, the Dictaphone Time Master’s red vinyl Dictabelt. Eisenhower recorded about 75 meetings.

By 1955 the White House switched to the Dictaphone Time Master’s red vinyl Dictabelt
JFK increases use

President John F. Kennedy significantly increased the amount of recording in the White House. Like Roosevelt, Kennedy wanted to ensure that the people he spoke to in private said the same things in public.

His system, installed in 1962 by the White House Communications Agency (WHCA), used a Model 5 reel-to-reel magnetic tape recorder made by Tandberg Radiofabrikk, a Norwegian company. Obtained from the U.S. Army Signal Corps, it could record up to two hours on a reel with greater frequency response than the earlier indenting recorders, and with minimal distortion. Microphones were hidden behind the drapes in the Cabinet Room, under Kennedy’s desk, beneath a coffee table in the Oval Office, and in the White House study. Kennedy also had a Dictaphone machine connected to his telephone.

In 1962 and 1963, the White House recorded 265 hours of meetings and 12 hours of phone calls. The microphones still picked up background noise, however, including the air conditioning hum, paper shuffling, and the tapping of Kennedy’s legs against his desk. JFK’s vice president, Lyndon B. Johnson also recorded telephone conversations with a Dictaphone, an Edison Voicewriter, and IBM’s transistorized Executary.

A Model 5 reel-to-reel magnetic tape recorder made by Tandberg Radiofabrikk was installed in 1962 during John F. Kennedy’s presidency.

Apparently, when he moved into the Oval Office four days later November 26, 1963, he initially used Kennedy's Dictaphone system. Gradually, President Johnson expanded his use of the Dictaphone system. He began recording his telephone conversations in the Oval Office and  from other locations.
President Johnson looks at the news feed and watches his Three Eyed Monster in the oval Office
WHCA was responsible to install the recorders on the Telephones that the president approved. WHCA was also responsible for maintaining the White House switchboard, the telephone systems, the "triple" television sets and news wire machines throughout the White House, and the pager buzzers to aides and secretaries. 

The President’s desk in the Oval Office

 Call Director on the President’s desk 

The coffee table with Phone
When he moved into the Oval Office on November 26, 1963, Johnson had the WHCA technicians install new machines on each of his secretaries' desks. The machines were physically located inside the knee wells of each secretary's typing desk. From their office next to the Oval Office, the President's secretaries could record the President's conversations on the telephone lines that went into the Oval Office and the Little Lounge next to the Oval Office.

Gradually, Johnson had WHCA install Dictaphones in several locations because he desired “complete coverage.” Dictaphone recorders were installed in his master bedroom where the President himself controlled the switch that turned the machines on and off.  The recording system was placed under his bed and controlled by a switch on the telephone that was next to his bed in the residence section of the White House, also at Camp David, and in two locations in Texas: in his office and bedroom on his ranch in Stonewall.

LBJ held many meetings in the Master Bedroom
Both the Cabinet Room and lounge recording systems were installed over the weekend of January 19, 1968, by Sergeant First Class Joseph B. Wilson and Navy Yeoman Gordon Olson under the supervision of Lieutenant Colonel James Adams. Adams was responsible for the white House Residence Branch of WHCA.

Beginning in early 1968, Johnson had the White House Communications Agency (WHCA) install a conventional reel-to-reel analog recording system in the Cabinet Room and in his small private office next to the Oval Office. A WHCA carpenter drilled eight holes in the underside of the Cabinet table to feed microphone outputs to a mixer in the basement. Voices were still hard to hear among other noises in the room.

WHCA also installed Dictabelt machines in the White House Situation Room and on the desk of the Duty Officer in the Communications Center. President Johnson also wanted a portable system that he could use when he traveled outside of Washington, D .C.  Although this machine was not used regularly, there are some recordings of the President speaking on the telephone while he traveled.

Jack Albright the WHCA Commander and other members of the White House staff suggested that Johnson, in constant fear of leaks during his second term, was afraid that the existence of the Dictaphone system would become known. Therefore, he used the system infrequently and carefully.
President Johnson ordered all traces of the Dictaphone systems removed in mid-December 1968, so the President elect, and his staff would not know that recording telephone conversations ever took place. WHCA removed the machines in the White House and at Camp David over the weekend of December 28, 1968. However, they left the machines at the President's ranch in place.

LBJ in the cabinet meeting room
As president, Johnson relied on Dictaphones rather than tape recorders to save more than 800 hours covering 9,000 telephone conversations on five phone lines, including two at his ranch in Stonewall, Texas. Johnson was the first president to use his recordings; his secretaries transcribed them for his review each evening.

Nixon, his Recordings and the WATERGATE SCANDAL

Johnson encouraged Nixon to use his system just before Nixon took office. He declined at first but also wanted to ensure the accuracy of statements by people who met with him and keep a record for his memoirs. His chief of staff, H.R. Haldeman, considered Nixon to be “far too inept with machinery” to operate a recording system so the installation used modified, voice-activated Sony TC-800B reel-to-reel tape recorders.

Nixon learned that Lyndon Johnson had in the White House's West Wing a taping system that permitted him to record both meetings and telephone conversations. When Nixon came to the White House on Inauguration Day, 1969, he found what he believed to be Johnson's taping equipment in what was, the small room just to the west of the Oval Office. It was hidden in the upper part of a closet just next to the fireplace.

Nixon abhorred the idea of taping the president's meetings and telephone conversations. He ordered the equipment removed immediately when he came to the White House, as he did Johnson's triple television monitor system and his ticker-tape machine. The new president shared none of LBJ’s love of gadgetry. All of Johnson's machines were quickly removed. Nixon's White House, as these actions taken immediately after his arrival seemed to assure, was to be free of garish electronics, and there was to be no surreptitious recording of meetings and conversations.

The problem was that people who met with the president did not always report accurately or completely what was said and decided privately. Sometimes the error was honest; Nixon often knew much more about a subject than the person he was meeting with and misunderstanding sometimes resulted from this. More often, though, the inaccurate reports had more self-serving motives. Contact with the president presents many temptations to people and brings out many things in their personalities that might never have appeared had they not been flattered with Oval Office meetings. Johnson had warned Nixon about what would happen. "Everybody in this town," he said, "will call somebody else and say, 'the President wants this, and the President wants that. And the people who claimed to know what the president wanted were often believed—because they had just this morning, or just yesterday, stepped out of a meeting in the Oval Office. Sometimes the misreporting of fact had a bad intent, sometimes it represented a willful manufacture of false knowledge to gain some end.

Nixon wanted an accurate record of his presidency was for his eventual use in preparing his memoirs and other writing projects that he might undertake after his term of office was over. 

Something had to be done, Nixon agreed, to ensure that we possessed an accurate record of what was said in meetings. WHCA tried a series of experiments during 1969 and 1970.

Of course, Nixon's presidency was ultimately brought down in large measure by tape recordings of his meetings and telephone conversations. He changed his mind about tape recordings, but he did so hesitantly, over a considerable period, and because of a sequence of failed attempts to solve a problem that seemed to leave no alternative to recommencing taping in the White House.

Two years into his presidency, Nixon had still not found a satisfactory way of getting a full account of what was said and decided in his meetings. Many experiments had been tried, and just as many had been discarded. It was Lyndon Johnson who finally solved his problem, not with a new idea, by any means, but with a decisive nudge toward an old idea. As a former president, Johnson could offer Nixon advice on some subjects with an authority no one else could match. Somehow, probably through some friend of Nixon's who had been conversing with Johnson on how best to set up a Nixon Library, word got back to Nixon, probably in late 1970 or early 1971, that Johnson's view was that he was foolish not to be keeping a record of what was going on, and that a good record was essential to the preparation of a former president's memoirs.

Initially only the Oval Office and the Cabinet Room were included in the system. The Cabinet Room was the only location ever to be included in the taping system that was not sound activated; a control mechanism in Butterfield's office had to be switched on to activate the machinery. The Oval Office machinery—and this was true of all the other White House taping locations—was activated by the Executive Protective Service's First Family Locator system; whenever an officer notified the system that the president was now in the Oval Office, the appropriate light came on in boxes scattered around the West Wing, and the taping machinery switched on. It was poised and ready to begin taping whenever any sounds occurred.

The White House Communications Agency eventually installed seven of the recorders in the White House and set up others in the Executive Office Building; Camp David, and on four presidential telephone lines. They were connected also to the president’s electronic location system, a radio-frequency device Nixon carried that activated receivers in certain rooms he entered.

President Richard M. Nixon used voice-activated Sony TC-800B reel-to-reel tape recorders. 
The taping system began operating in the Oval Office and the Cabinet Room on February 16, 1971. On April 6, the president's office in the Old Executive Office Building and his telephones in both this office and the Oval Office, and the telephone in the Lincoln Sitting Room in the Residence, were added to the system. Over a year later, on May 18, 1972, the president's office and two telephones in Aspen Lodge at Camp David were also added to the system, The Camp David installation completed the system.

The map below of the Oval Office shows the positions of seven microphones. Five (M-1 through M-5) were at the President s desk, and two were in the wall lamps on each side of the fireplace.
Microphone locations in the Oval Office Enlarge 
What makes the Cabinet Room recordings unique is that the room itself could accommodate more participants than the average meeting recorded on a White House Telephone, in the Lincoln Sitting Room, or in the president's Executive Office Building retreat. Thus, these recordings often captured larger meetings with Congressional leaders, various domestic councils, presidential commissions, task forces, meetings of the National Security Council, an occasional Joint Chiefs of Staff meeting, top secret briefings by Director of Central Intelligence Richard Helms, an international summit meeting--such as the U.S.-Soviet meetings during June 1973, and, of course, Cabinet meetings, along with many other types of gatherings.

The Cabinet Meeting Room 
The Aspen Lodge office was taken off the system in March 1973. On April 9, 1973, Nixon told Halderman to remove the rest of the taping system, but later that same day he changed his mind—he wanted to retain the system, but he wanted it converted to a switch basis. Nixon's order was not carried out. The sound-activated system remained in place in the president's offices until it was finally shut down on July 18,1973, two days after Alexander Butterfield told the Senate Select Committee on Presidential Campaign Activities—the so-called Ervin Committee—of its existence.

Nixon never used the White House tapes for any of the purposes he had had in mind when he ordered the system installed until he ordered Halderman in mid-April 1973 to listen to the recording of his March 21, 1973, conversation with John Dean during which Dean had described at length the problems that Watergate had created for the presidency. He wanted to know precisely what he had said during that troubling conversation.

Also, while taping at other White House locations was ended earlier in 1973 by Watergate-era Chief of Staff Al Haig, the Cabinet Room recordings continued until July 1973, even after the revelation of the taping system before the Watergate investigating committee by presidential aide Alexander Butterfield.

The prosecution was interested in tapes of a discussion between Nixon and his chief of staff, H.R. "Bob" Haldeman, that were captured by the president's secret White House recording system in the days immediately following the break-in at Democratic National Committee headquarters.

But those tapes contain a mysterious 18.5-minute gap -- a patch of buzzes and clicks of missing audio -- in the middle of a recording made June 20, 1972, three days after the break-in.

Rose Mary Woods, Nixon’s loyal private secretary, was tasked with transcribing the tapes before they were turned over to prosecutors. Woods testified in front of a federal grand jury in 1974 that she was using a Dictaphone, which had a pedal that would pause the recording when she lifted her foot off it, and she claimed she had erased part of the tape by mistake.

Rose Mary Woods, President Richard Nixon's secretary transcribing recorded tapes 
Her explanation was that she was listening to the tape and … the telephone rang. So, she kept her foot on a pedal, pushed the wrong button. She pushed record instead of off and reached for the phone.” Woods testified that when she accidentally pushed record on the Dictaphone, it recorded over part of the original conversation. There’s a famous photo of Woods re-creating the moment, in which Woods attempted to keep her foot on the Dictaphone pedal and reach for the phone on the other side of her desk at the same time. Some have jokingly referred to it as the “Rose Mary Stretch.” The audio couldn’t be recovered during the trials. It is widely believed that the President had tried to alter the tapes but erased the missing 18 min. himself!
Oval office meeting note the Dictaphone machine next to the President’s desk 
After Nixon's resignation, most thought that was the end of recordings but was it? There is evidence to support that presidents continued to roll the tape — albeit in a more limited way. There is no law preventing secret White House recordings, and some kept it up — most notably Reagan.

Reagan was presented with the option of continuing or not continuing the phone tapings in the Oval Office for national security purposes, obviously tapings were a very controversial subject ever since the Nixon days. But Reagan could see the value of it, not so much for history but for accuracy ... and readily agreed to continue the tapings."

Ford, Carter and George H.W. Bush reportedly had no-recording rules, and there's no evidence that Bill Clinton taped anything secretly in the White House.

There's some evidence that George W. Bush recorded at least some video conferences. As for Obama, There is only speculation that recordings were made, but we know that the NSA can collect anyone’s telephone conversations.

But an Obama official told NPR that while it was true the Obama White House recorded interviews with the media — a common practice among campaigns, too — it was out in the open. And that they didn't record private meetings.

The Presidents’ recording efforts in the White House have had many consequences, most notably Nixon’s resignation. It is hard to imagine that any President has tried to record conversations since it was disclosed over forty years ago when it was common practice, but it appears that with today's advanced technology don't Assume it isn't happening today and in the future!

Tuesday, September 4, 2018

The Presidential Motorcade 2018

The Presidential Motorcade
The Presidential Motorcade ready to roll.
Type of Activity
Establish Communications Support
Washington DC
Date of Activity
25 Mar 2018

The Presidential Motorcade is built from a fleet of both custom and sometimes rented vehicles. A finite number of Presidential limousines exist, with between 16 and 20 being an estimate. Careful planning and a logistical planning must take place to pre-position the most capable (and usually newest) vehicles based on the threat level and operating environment at each destination.

It is not uncommon of for the President to visit three separate cities during a single day, especially during campaign season. That means three separate motorcade detachments need to be forward deployed to those cities. This is done via USAF heavy-transports such as C-17s, or on some occasions, a single C-5 Galaxy.

The Presidential Motorcade is both the safest and seemingly the riskiest convoy on the planet. A comparison of today’s Presidential Limousine “The Beast” and that of JFK’s “Bubble Top” shows  the stark differences in the level of security features that have been added in today’s limousine.

When President John F Kennedy was assassinated in 1963, he was riding in a motorcade through Dallas in the 1961 Lincoln Continental four-door convertible.

Completely open at the top, the car, code-named Stagecoach, had no armor or bullet-proof elements whatsoever, a fact incomprehensible today.

The tires were not bulletproof. There was no bulletproof glass. It did have a removable plastic top, but, again, it was just Plexiglas, no bullet resistance in that material. It's amazing to think of it, but they just didn't anticipate that kind of problem. The motorcade did not have any medical support, nor did it have procedures in place to respond to emergency situations.

The custom-built car cost $200,000 and had features including retractable steps for Secret Service agents and two radio telephones provided by WHCA.

Following Kennedy's assassination, the car was driven directly back to the White House, so it could be examined as part of the investigation.

'They determined that the most practical thing to do was just to rebuild this existing car rather than to start from scratch, so, yes, they took the car down to the frame and rebuilt it as a true armored vehicle.

The biggest change they made in modifying the car was putting in a permanent roof that could not be removed, and they surrounded the whole vehicle with bullet-resistant glass.

President Lyndon, Johnson seen here in the Presidential limo with wife Ladybird, never liked traveling in the car in which President Kennedy had been killed.

The White House approved a plan for a re-vamp of the car in December 1963.

It was completely armored; a top was added, and it was given a paint-job in 'regal Presidential Blue Metallic with silver metallic flakes that glitter under bright lights and sunshine.'

Lyndon Johnson was two cars behind Kennedy the day of the assassination. After he was sworn in as president, he occasionally had to ride in the car, but Johnson was never comfortable riding in the car and avoided it whenever possible.

He disliked the blue paint job the car had been given because it was  similar to the original color, so it was promptly painted black. When President Nixon had use of the car, he had a hole cut in the roof as a hatch, so that he could stand up and wave at crowds. 

Presidents Ford and Carter also used the car, until it finally reached its usefulness and it was finally retired in 1977. The Bubble Top is on display at the Henry Ford Museum in Detroit MI. 

This globe-trotting fleet of vehicles is basically a rolling, armored White House, complete with its own contingency response force, communications office, press corps and medical facilities.

Today's Presidential Limousine has many safety features incorporated in its exterior and interior as indicated below:

The exact configuration of the motorcade changes depending on the mission and the assets at hand, but there is a basic layout. Sometimes extra cars are added in different positions, and just because the Presidential limousines are in motion, the President isn't necessarily inside one of them.

A pair of Presidential Limos are loaded onto a C-17 Globemaster III.dd caption
In addition to the Presidential Motorcade being forward deployed to where the President is heading, it is now usually customary to deploy a pair of Presidential Airlift helicopters  belonging to Marine Helicopter Squadron 1, otherwise known as HMX-1.

The "The Beast," and AF-1 during a Presidential Visit
The Beast and  HMX-1 arriving at a Presidential visit.
Generally, the Presidential Motorcade is made up of the following components:

Route Car & Pilot Car

The Route Car runs minutes ahead of the Presidential Motorcade, presumably checking the route and providing guidance for inbound "sweepers" [see below] while also providing intelligence to the entire motorcade. The Pilot Car does the same but runs a minute or even just seconds in front of the motorcade. It may be accompanied by motorcycle police to cut off key intersections and highway overpasses.

Motorcade Pilot Car

These are usually throngs of police on motorcycles and in patrol cars as part of a Presidential Motorcade. They deploy in front of the motorcade, clearing the way so that the motorcade’s speed can remain as consistent.

Lead Car

The lead of the core of the Presidential Motorcade formation. It works as a guide and a buffer for what lies ahead. It can be a Secret Service Suburban, a local marked police car, or really any car the Secret Service chooses.

Lead Car
Presidential Limousine: Code Name "Stagecoach" or "Spare"

The Presidential limousine rides at the very center of the motorcade “package.” What appears to be a very heavy Cadillac is really an extremely survivable and luxurious armored car. "The Beast" as latest addition to Presidential limo history is known, is outfitted with many unique capabilities and countermeasures, each one aimed at keeping the President safe and allowing him to rapidly evade danger during an attack, whether direct (ambush) or indirect (gassing a city, etc.).

The Beast's defense capabilities include top-level ballistic armoring, night vision/infrared driving systems, a sealed cabin with an independent air supply capable of enduring a nuclear-biological-chemical (NBC) attack, and even a supply of the President’s blood type. All of this is in addition to a state-of-the-art communications connectivity system, including internet and secure telephone communications.

Stagecoach and spare awaiting Departure
'Stagecoach,' is the name for whatever car the President is in and of course is the whole focus of Presidential Motorcade. Everything is centered on making sure that car makes it to its destination. In addition to 'Stagecoach,' at least one identical car always accompanies it, and sometimes many more. These cars, known as 'Spares,' are used as a backup and blocking vehicle should POTUS's vehicle have a mechanical issue or is attacked, as well a serving as decoys.

While the motorcade is in motion, highly trained Secret Service drivers execute a classic roving 'shell game,' weaving Stagecoach and Spare, or Spares, in and out among each other so that a would-be attacker would have a tough time picking the car containing the President. The Presidential limousines even have identical plates.

Presidential Security Detail SUV: Code Named "Halfback"

Halfback is the following car for Stagecoach and Spare(s), and it carries the President's Secret Service protective detail. Usually this vehicle is a specially outfitted Chevrolet Suburban with police lights mounted on a light bar, in the interior windows, and in the grill. This is basically the President's first line of backup should something occur while enroute, and it will follow a pre-planned set of defensive driving and VIP protection tactics based on a long list of contingencies. Rear-facing third row seating usually has at least one overtly armed Secret Service Agent sitting with the window or tailgate open.

The President's security detail riding in Halfback.
Electronic Countermeasures Vehicle Code Name: “Watchtower”

This vehicle has large vertical aerials and domes on its spine and actively jams communications and remote detonating devices. In some configurations, it may also work at detecting incoming projectiles and small unmanned aircraft via short-wave radar.

This vehicle, along with others in the motorcade, may also provide laser warning  and radar warning for the convoy. If a threat is detected, such as one using a laser for designation and ranging, or if a threat radar were detected, IR smoke, chaff and targeted jamming could be deployed, disrupting such an attack.

 ECM vehicle Watchtower
Support Vehicles

Support Vehicles usually transport high-value staff, such as parts of the President's cabinet and their security detail, as well as additional security personnel and the President's doctor.

Counter Assault Team Vehicles: Nicknamed "Hawkeye Renegade"

These vehicles are also usually black Suburban’s or some other large SUV, with police lights, rails and running boards for external transport of agents, and they always have their rear gates ajar with a heavily armed and armored commando hanging out of the back.

The Secret Service's Counter Assault Team, known as the 'CAT,' gives the Presidential Motorcade its heavy hitting combat punch. These elite Secret Service operators, selected from a tiny fraction of those who apply, carry state-of-the-art arms, including assault rifles, night vision goggles, expendables like flash bangs and concussion grenades, and sometimes heavy body armor.

The CAT is the direct-action unit that rapidly counter-attacks if the convoy is ambushed, or it sets up a defensive buffer if the convoy were about to be attacked. Meanwhile, the President's Security Detail would work to rapidly evacuate the President from the scene.

The heavily-armed CAT riding in one of the motorcade's Suburban’s.Add caption
Intelligence Division Vehicle: The "ID Car"

This vehicle works as a 'big picture' intelligence node, communicating with over-watch and surveillance units, local police, and other intelligence sources about possible threats or obstacles along the motorcade's route. The agents in this car try to identify problems before they occur.
Hazard Materials Mitigation Unit.

Hazmat Unit
This black work truck carries sensors to detect, and gear to respond to, nuclear, biological or chemical (NBC) weapons attacks that threaten the Motorcade. It also works as a roving storage vehicle, carrying supplies and other classified capabilities.

Hazmat Unit in the center of motorcade
Press Vans

These vehicles are usually large vans that carry the White House Press Corps in the motorcade. Obviously, this space is reserved for major news outlets and the White House media team. This includes a camera, wire and general press vans.

Press Corps Vans
The White House Communications Agency Vehicle: Code Name "Roadrunner"

The Control Vehicle carries a top military aid with the highest level of clearance, who would assist the Commander-in-Chief during a major military incident, giving operational guidance, and if need be, activating the Nuclear Football. These vehicles are usually modified SUVs, such as Chevrolet Suburban’s with enhanced communications and low-profile police lighting or sometimes rented vans.

WHCA Mobile Command and Control Vehicle (Roadrunner)
Mobile Command and Control Vehicle
Roadrunner, also known as the Mobile Command and Control Vehicle, is one of the most conspicuous vehicles in Motorcade. A beefed-up Suburban, it houses a large satellite communications array and posts an antenna farm along its roof-line.

"The Mobile Communications Vehicle (MCV) is built on a Ford Super Duty truck platform modified to maximize payload with an overall appearance of a six-door sport utility vehicle with air ride suspension. The MCV includes a structurally reinforced 5 slice antenna platform that incorporates an omni-directional satellite mount.
Just three occupants are needed in the truck's six-door custom cabin.
This vehicle keeps the President and White House officials securely connected to the world, providing encrypted voice, internet and video communications via the Pentagon’s constellation of hardened communications satellites. This vehicle may also be able to handle communications for nuclear arms release.

Roadrunner also helps facilitate secure communications within the Motorcade itself. Think of it as a big rolling data encryption center, Wi-Fi hotspot, radio repeater and doomsday communications control center.


An ambulance is a constant feature at the rear of the Presidential Motorcade. It is there to treat injuries that may occur following an attack, a wreck or an unexpected biological event. This resource is primarily reserved for the President.

An ambulance is always in the rear in case of an Emergency
Rear Guard

This is usually a phalanx of local police vehicles, such as motorcycles and marked patrol cars. Their job is to provide early warning and a defensive buffer for the rear of the motorcade.

Several police motorcycle officers makes up the Rear Guard.
Ground Force One

Although rarely deployed in Presidential travel, a pair of heavily modified and thickly armored buses were procured by the Secret Service around the turn of the decade. The joint project between Prevost Car and Hemphill Brothers Coach Company, known as the model X3-45 VIP 3, allows the President to travel more efficiently by road in rural areas when many stops are on the schedule.

Once delivered, these roving White Houses were painted gloss black and had advance communications installed to interconnect them with Roadrunner and the world beyond, as well as other improvements like what you would find in the Presidential limousine. Both limo buses were used leading up to the 2012 election, Codename Ground Force One they can easily replace the Beast at any time in the motorcade!

USSS Armored Bus
This is the configuration of today’s Presidential Motorcade. I have had the pleasure to see the whole motorcade, wind their way through large cities and small towns with the greatest of ease, it is an amazing spectacle to watch.

Getting into position for the Presidents Departure
I've had the privilege to work Air Force One’s arrival and departure many times while I was in WHCA and I will never forget the feelings I had when I saw crews of AF-1, HMX-1 and the Motorcade execute their duties while transporting the President.