This article cross-posted from Whowhatwhy
Here's a crazy story that has gotten little attention in the United States: During Barack Obama's recent visit to Canberra, the Australian capital, a reporter happened upon a classified booklet containing security information about the presidential trip.
The highly sensitive booklet was...lying in a gutter.
What in the world can that be about?
We'll come back to that in a bit, but first, let's consider how a political leader such as Obama would react to such an incident, which was reported in an Australian newspaper.
In all probability, he would assume it was the result of spectacular carelessness. These cases surface from time to time, as when a scientist leaves top secret papers in the back seat of a taxi cab. But, knowing the complex machinations of the political and spook worlds, it would be understandable if, for a brief second, Obama might at least contemplate the possibility that such a "blunder" could be deliberate.
And he would realize that if it were deliberate, someone would either be trying to cause him harm, or to send a message of some sort.
A host of ill-fated leaders -- from the early 20th century Mexican President Venustiano Carranza to Indian Prime Minister Indira Gandhi to Egyptian President Anwar Sadat -- learned too late that their own security forces were fully capable of betraying their masters. Indeed, history is replete with examples of treachery.
When it comes to the safety of US presidents, the line between reckless accidents and deliberate acts is not so clear. In the case of John F. Kennedy, the stunning inadequacy of Secret Service protective measures on November 22, 1963 have been the subject of broad speculation and debate for half a century.
Apparently, this was not the result of a one-day lapse. In his book, The Echo From Dealey Plaza, former Secret Service agent Abraham Bolden reveals not only the reckless behavior of his fellow agents charged with protecting Kennedy -- but also their personal animosity toward the president and the policies he implemented.
LONE NUTS GALORE
When it comes to Obama, he's got other reasons to feel nervous. American tradition has it that lone nuts are always lurking, ready to go to great lengths to make a name for themselves. While Obama was away in Australia, bullets struck the White House near the residential quarters. A man was arrested and charged with attempting to assassinate the president. He was, of course, characterized as yet another lone nut. But not so obviously disturbed that people had previously noticed. As the New York Times reported :
"People here say that the only thing that could have motivated Mr. Ortega was mental illness -- but that they did not realize the severity of it until it was too late."
The defendant, Oscar Ramiro Ortega-Hernandez, is described by The Times as having started acting very, very strange only recently:
"The family reported Mr. Ortega missing on Oct. 31, eight days after he left on what he said was a vacation to Utah; instead, it was a trip to the East Coast. His family never heard from him, and still has not.