Three White House Security Breaches (and Two Royal Run-Ins)


Last week’s security breach/assassination attempt at the White House was a shocker, but it’s hardly the first time it's happened. Here are a few other times suspicious characters have gotten too close for comfort.

Michael Winter

You can imagine the three-ring media circus that would spring up over a successful attempt to break into the White House these days (case in point: Michaele and Tareq Salahi), but back in 1912, The New York Times devoted just two paragraphs to the ho-hum event:

"Michael Winter, of Baltimore, caused unusual excitement around the White House to-day. He made two attempts to enter the front door of the Mansion, and finally was landed at police headquarters under the impression that he was at the German Embassy.   Winter’s first call was made while the President was at breakfast. The man said he was known at the German Embassy and that he had business with Mr. Taft that required a personal audience. He was turned away but a short time later slipped through the doors and was several feet inside before detected.  It was then he was induced to accompany an officer to the ‘German Embassy.’ He will be examined as to his mental soundness.”

Robert Latta

On January 20, 1985, Ronald Reagan was taking his second presidential oath of office. Robert Latta, a meter reader from Denver, decided that it would be an opportune time to take an intimate tour of the White House while all eyes were on the inauguration. Latta spotted the United States Marine Band heading into the Executive Mansion where they were scheduled to serenade President Reagan at a private ceremony and simply slipped in behind them. They weren’t in formation, so blending in wasn't much of a problem. Once inside, Latta broke off and roamed around the residence with his overnight bag for almost 15 minutes before someone finally spotted him.

Robert K. Preston

Sneaking in unnoticed is one thing, but it’s another thing entirely to land an Iroquois helicopter on the south lawn. That’s what United States Army private first class Robert K. Preston did in 1974, not once, but twice. After landing on the south lawn for a few minutes, Preston took off again, swooping low over traffic on the highway. When Maryland State Police started pursuing him, Preston headed back to the Mansion and started to make himself at home again. This time, he was forced to land by Secret Service agents opening fire. Neither President Nixon nor the First Lady were home at the time, but Preston claimed his intent was not to harm either of them anyway: he simply wanted to show off his mad flying skillz. He was apparently upset when his right to fly was revoked.

Royal Run-Ins

It’s hard to write an article about people who have helped themselves to hospitality at the houses of world leaders without a note about Michael Fagan. On July 9, 1982, Fagan managed to climb up drain pipes at Buckingham Palace, slip in through an open window and wander around the palace for a while before making his way to the Queen’s bedroom. There should have been someone guarding the sleeping monarch, but the guard on duty was out walking QEII’s Corgis when Fagan showed up. After waking the Queen up and speaking to her for about 10 minutes, he asked for some smokes. When she summoned someone to fetch the cigarettes, she was also able to alert them to the intruder. Fagan was removed without a fight.

Royal Incident #2: During WWII, the Queen Mother walked into her bathroom at Windsor Castle during WWII and surprised an army deserter. She apparently gave him a lecture about serving his country before calling guards.