President Obama's movements during his whirlwind trip to
Australia this week were choreographed in painstaking detail – as
an Australian journalist who found a classified copy of his
schedule in a Canberra gutter can testify.
Dylan Welch, who works for Fairfax Media, discovered the itinerary – in a 125-page booklet, Overall Program and Order of Arrangements – dumped 100 metres from the Australian parliament.
As well as minute-by-minute descriptions of Mr Obama's movements, down to which limousine door he was to enter and exit by, the document sets out seating arrangements for the presidential motorcade and gives a breakdown of the security convoy. The booklet, which is classified "in confidence", also lists phone numbers of dozens of senior US and Australian military and civilian staff.
The news will embarrass US officials and their Australian hosts. A leading security expert, Alan Dupont, told Fairfax newspapers it was a significant security breach. "If that had got into the wrong hands it would certainly put the President and some of his entourage at risk if someone could respond quickly enough to having this information," said Prof Dupont, director of the Centre for International Security Studies at the University of Sydney.
"Even if you were an ordinary crim, there would be a market for that kind of book." The degree of detail it outlines is illustrated by an entry relating to Mr Obama's arrival at the Royal Australian Air Force base in Darwin on Thursday.
"On a signal from the presidential advance agents, the Prime Minister, Beazley [Kim Beazley, the Australian ambassador to the US] and Bleich [Jeffrey Bleich, the American ambassador to Australia] alight from their vehicles," it states.
The document also catalogues the president's Secret Service teams and vehicles, including "counter-assault teams", a "comms vehicle", an "intel car" and a "hammer truck". The last, according to Fairfax, stands for "hazardous agent mitigation medical emergency response" – the team that provides emergency treatment in the event of a chemical attack.
The job of the counter-assault teams is to use heavy weapons on attackers while the president escapes with his suited Secret Service agents. Among the mobile numbers listed are those of the US deputy ambassador, Jason Hyland; the American consuls-general in Sydney, Melbourne and Perth; and three Australian Air Force wing commanders.