Exclusive: Secret Service beefs up White House security ahead of State of the Union trucker convoy
The U.S. Secret Service has beefed up security at the White House in response to heightened concerns about trucker convoys heading to Washington, D.C., that are timed to coincide with President Biden’s State of the Union address on March 1, Yahoo News has learned.
The Department of Homeland Security, the FBI, Capitol Police and other law enforcement agencies are tracking multiple trucker convoys headed to Washington to protest vaccine mandates put in place to stop the spread of COVID-19, according to five law enforcement bulletins obtained by Yahoo News.
On Thursday, the DHS circulated a situation report detailing the movements of trucker convoys making their way from California and the Northeast to the nation’s capital.
The DHS bulletin notes it does not see any specific credible threat of violence “associated with the First Amendment–protected trucker convoy planning in the US” but says some domestic violent extremists “probably will be drawn to the event and could engage in premeditated or opportunistic violence.”
“The scope, scale and proposed locations of the US convoy activity may pose risks to the public safety, emergency response, and DHS operations,” the bulletin states. The convoys may reach Washington before the March 1 State of the Union address, according to the bulletin.
The latest bulletin outlines changes to security posture ahead of the State of the Union. It says that on Feb. 23, Secret Service put in place additional security measures, including in and around the White House complex. The State of the Union is a National Special Security Event, a designation that necessitates increased federal and other resources. The Secret Service is the lead agency for such events.
Immigration and Customs Enforcement is tracking four convoys expected to arrive in D.C. between Feb. 23 and Feb. 27 and that could cause highway blockades, notes the DHS situation report.
A Secret Service spokesman said, “Due to the need to maintain operational security, the U.S. Secret Service does not comment on the means, methods, or resources used to conduct our protective operations.”
The DHS bulletin notes the department is coordinating on the trucker convoys with agencies like the FBI, the ATF and others.
As the threat of the convoys disrupting the State of the Union address and normal life in the capital became more apparent, FBI and DHS officials held a meeting with 30 interagency groups and other government and law enforcement agencies to discuss the potential impact on Biden’s State of the Union address and to Washington, D.C., as a whole.
“The FBI, including the Washington Field Office, respects the rights of individuals to peacefully exercise their First Amendment rights. We do not initiate investigations based solely on an individual’s race, ethnicity, national origin, religion, or the exercise of First Amendment rights,” an FBI spokesperson said. “We are committed to working closely with our local, state, and federal law enforcement partners against any individuals who intend to commit violence or criminal activity that constitutes a federal crime or poses a threat to national security. We remind members of the public to be aware of their surroundings and to report any suspicious activity to law enforcement.”
The DHS did not immediately respond to Yahoo News’ request for comment.
The DHS bulletin says it asked law enforcement partners across the country for any information about the movements of the various trucker convoys currently traveling in the U.S.
Yahoo News obtained detailed updates provided to the DHS by law enforcement in Ohio and Arizona, where trucker convoys have passed through.
Several of these regional fusion center documents feature maps showing past and planned movements of the convoys.
Several maps, produced by the Northern Virginia Regional Intelligence Center, show the route these convoys are expected to take to Washington and include the expected time and date of their arrival. The document also identifies five organizers of trucker convoys. One convoy being tracked is expected to travel to Scranton, Pa., then to Harrisburg, then on to Washington via the I-495 Beltway.
Another convoy is expected to arrive at the Sylvan Theater in Washington on March 1, the date of the State of the Union. This convoy, the bulletin notes, is arriving from Los Angeles. Its final leg, from Frederick, Md., to Washington, will bring the convoy to the intersection of Independence Ave SW and 15th St NW, just blocks from the White House.
On March 5 or 6, a different convoy, also from the West Coast, is expected to reach Washington, the Northern Virginia Regional Intelligence Center situation report states. Other convoys being tracked are en route to Washington from New York, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Illinois, Wisconsin and elsewhere, according to intelligence bulletins and other updates provided by law enforcement in Ohio, Arizona and Oklahoma and circulated by DHS. These regional reports on the trucker convoys obtained by Yahoo News and widely circulated by the DHS include detailed itineraries with times for planned gas station stops along the way.
Yahoo News previously reported that U.S. Customs and Border Protection and its umbrella agency, the DHS were tracking convoys expected to begin in California near the Super Bowl and head to Washington. Yahoo News later reported that the Department of Transportation was tracking trucker convoys planned inside the U.S. and their potential disruptions to the national highway system.
On Feb. 22, the DHS and the Capitol Police asked the Defense Department for National Guard troops to help manage the havoc the trucker convoys could have on traffic, and to make sure law enforcement and emergency services in place for the State of the Union address are not diverted elsewhere.
A threat assessment for the State of the Union obtained by Yahoo News said trucker convoys descending on Washington could “substantially impede or disrupt security operations related to the State of the Union address and overwhelm critical response functions.”
A DHS official involved in aspects of tracking trucker convoys and the threats to Biden’s address told Yahoo News that law enforcement is preparing for the worst but added, “I don’t think the trucker thing will be that big, the lead guy got lost and stuck,” this source said, declining to provide further details.
“That said, obviously we are watching,” the source said. “The potential for damage is real and we need to be prepared.”