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'Human error' allowed security breach at Joint Base Andrews: Air Force inspector general report

A Germantown, Maryland man made his way onto a government aircraft reserved for top officials and commanders at the airfield that is home to Air Force One.
Image: President Joe Biden waves while boarding Air Force One as he departs Washington for a trip to Delaware, at Joint Base Andrews, Md.
President Joe Biden waves while boarding Air Force One as he departs Washington for a trip to Delaware, at Joint Base Andrews, Md., Feb. 27, 2021.Erin Scott / Reuters

WASHINGTON — A distracted guard and other security failures allowed an intruder to enter Joint Base Andrews last month and make his way onto an aircraft reserved for top government officials, according to a report released Thursday by the U.S. Air Force inspector general.

The guard manning an entrance gate was “distracted” and failed to follow procedures, waving through a car without checking if the driver had proper identification, said Air Force Lt. Gen. Sami Said, who briefed reporters on the report.

Once inside, the intruder wandered around for five hours, at a base that is home to Air Force One.

The report blamed "human error" for the Feb. 4 breach and said the guard had been “complacent” about security procedures. Afterward, the guard said he was distracted due to problems in his personal life, according to Said.

After the initial mistake at the entrance, an automatic gate malfunctioned, allowing the intruder to enter the flight line, according to the report.

Having gained access to the airfield, the unarmed intruder then entered a C-40 aircraft from the 89th Airlift Wing, known as the "presidential wing." The aircraft is used to transport high-ranking civilian officials and top military officers.

Air force personnel "failed to observe the man walking toward the aircraft" and others who did see the intruder "did not challenge his presence," the report said.

However, the inspector general's review found that Air Force One and other presidential planes at the base were safe at all times because those planes are under another layer of "robust security" manned by armed security guards. The report said more details on the security procedures could not be divulged.

The intruder entered the C-40 aircraft while it was open for air crew training, and after a few minutes, he was seen leaving the plane.

The intruder, a 36-year-old from Germantown, Maryland, was arrested after "someone in the passenger terminal" alerted security guards, the report said.

The report said the suspect was booked for trespassing on U.S. military or other federal property.

Some words and sections of the report were blacked out, including passages addressing security procedures and details related to the suspected intruder.

After the Feb. 4 incident, the Air Force tightened security at Joint Base Andrews and at other bases. Officials said at the time that there was no indication the intruder had links to extremist groups.

The C-40 plane the intruder walked into is the Air Force equivalent of a 737 airliner, painted in the U.S. government's blue and white color scheme, and is designed as an "office in the sky" for senior military, government leaders and members of Congress. The plane is outfitted with secure communications, sleeping quarters and work tables, according to the U.S. Air Force.