Presidential Travel Documents Found in Trash

A trash collector found President Bush’s travel schedule documents while collecting the White House garbage and turned them over to WUSA9.

How much do you think Osama bin Laden would pay to know exactly when and where the President was traveling, and who was with him? Turns out, he wouldn’t have had to pay a dime. All he had to do was go through the trash early Tuesday morning. It appears to be a White House staff schedule for the President’s trip to Florida Tuesday. And a sanitation worker was alarmed to find in the trash long hours before Mr. Bush left for his trip.

It’s the kind of thing you would expect would be shredded or burned, not thrown in the garbage. Randy Hopkins could not believe what he was seeing. There on the floor next to a big trash truck was a thick sheaf of papers with nearly every detail of the President’s voyage. “I saw locations and names and places where the President was going to be. I knew it was important. And it shouldn’t have been in a trash hole like this,” he said.

Hopkins works in sanitation. He’s an ex-con, and he’s worried about fallout from talking to us, so he’s asked us not to say exactly where he’s employed. But he also felt it was his civic duty to tell somebody about what he’d found. “We’re going through a war, and if it would have fell into the wrong hands at the right time, it would have been something really messy for the President’s sake,” he said.

The documents details the exact arrival and departure time for Air Force One, Marine One and the back up choppers, Nighthawk 2 and Three. It lists every passenger on board each aircraft, from the President to military attaché with nuclear football. It offers the order of vehicles in the President’s motorcade. We faxed a copy to the Secret Service, which as usual rule declined to say much, other than insisting that it was a White House staff document, not a Secret Service document.

Someone got careless, to be sure. Why Hopkins thought turning the documents over to the press a better security measure than, say, turning them over to the Secret Service is unclear. Of course, a man who protects his identity by appearing on television and giving his name but not the name of the garbage company he works for might not be the sharpest knife in the drawer. . . .

Here’s the EXCLUSIVE–Must cite Wonkette WUSA9–video of this story:

I share Wonk‘s amusement at the sensationalistic tone of the WUSA9 piece:

The immediate invocation of Osama bin Laden (complete with the hilarious image of him rooting through the White House trash), the ex-con garbage man doing his “civic duty,” the outrage and shock from the anchors, it’s classic local news.


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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm veteran. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. Ugh says:

    The immediate invocation of Osama bin Laden

    Just following W’s lead.

  2. anjin-san says:

    More crackerjack work from the Bush White House.

  3. John Burgess says:

    Having worked numerous presidential visits, I find some important information missing here.

    What iteration of the schedule was that in the trash? Usually, a presidential visit undergoes dozens of changes–starting months before the visit–before the final is published. Is there any indication that the schedule found in the trash was the final?

    Notional schedules are, indeed, supposed to be destroyed properly–not tossed in the trash. And someone should be reamed for the breach of security.

    But that’s not at all the same as a real threat.

    Passenger manifests are fluid until the planes take off. Seating in motorcades is final when the car doors close. A visit is final when the President walks in the room. All are subject to change right up the the actual event.

    I’ve been holding the fort at sites scheduled to be visited, but ended up holding something else when the schedule changed at the last minute. I’ve also had my seat in motorpools bumped or upgraded. And gotten very-last-minute calls to quickly get someplace to cover an “off-schedule” event.

    With the information provided in the news item, I’m certainly not going to get worried…