What lies beneath: The secret passageway, Armageddon-proof bunker under the President’s feet
The White House already has a number of tunnels — the exact number is, of course, classified. The most well known is the underground corridor that leads to the President’s Emergency Operations Center (PEOC), a supposedly nuclear-proof bunker located six stories under the East Wing. It was to this bunker and its adjacent Executive Briefing Room that Dick Cheney and Condoleezza Rice, among others, directed Government operations on September 11, 2001.
While Hollywood and many conspiracy theorists suggest a rabbit warren of subterranean passageways — including mythical tunnels to Capitol Hill and even Camp David — there is at least one hidden passageway that has been revealed in the famous residence.
A 50-yard tunnel leads from a concealed doorway in the Oval Office to the basement of the First Family’s residence in the East Wing. The clandestine passage was built during Ronald Reagan’s presidency as a way to guard the President in a terrorist attack.
Pressing a panel on a wall adjacent to the President’s rest room next to the Oval Office causes a secret door to slide open, leading to a staircase down to the passageway. There is also talk of a tunnel linking the White House to Blair House across Pennsylvania Avenue. Many presidents have made alterations to the building, built between 1792 and 1800. While most of the alterations have been cosmetic alterations, the bunker that is now the PEOC was constructed during the Second World War for President Roosevelt.
Mystery of the West Wing hole: What Is Obama building under the White House?
It is a huge hole in one of the world’s most famous gardens – but nobody knows what it is for. Workmen have torn up an enormous section of the lawn in front of the White House for a mysterious, top secret project. The hole by the West Wing is roughly 100ft by 100ft in size and has for the first time in living memory left the ground and pipes beneath the Oval office exposed to the elements.
Official explanations have ranged from an update of the air conditioning system to something ‘security’ related. But that has not stopped speculation that the President is installing something else entirely – from a swimming pool to a spa.
Others have guessed it could be an expansion of the presidential bunker, which was originally built in the time of Franklin D Roosevelt. What is known is that every day for the past 17 months workmen have come and gone with nobody revealing what the project it. The funds were allocated after 9/11 and apparently it will eventually link up with the Presidential Operations Centre.
That room was featured in former vice President Dick Cheney’s memoir as the place he took shelter after the September 11 attacks whilst former President George W Bush was on Air Force One. A White House official quote by by the New York Times could only say that the general idea was an expansion of the emergency base of operations.
‘It is security-related construction. Even we don’t know exactly what,’ he said. Built between 1792 and 1800, the White House has seen a string of amendments and additions to its main building and the grounds over the years. During World War II a bomb shelter was constructed under the East Wing, although this was later converted into an operations room.
Big Hole in White House Lawn Prompts Equally Big Questions
President Obama, who has been traveling the country urging Congress to pass his jobs bill so Americans can be put to work on infrastructure projects, need only look out a window in the West Wing to see one such project. Under way on his front lawn for the last 17 months, it is highly visible and yet mysterious.
For the first time in recent memory, the ground and pipes beneath the Oval Office are exposed, and each day, workers lower massive concrete blocks several stories underground. Cranes, trucks and construction workers file in and out of the hole, usually through a passageway between the White House and the Old Executive Office Building.
The cavernous hole has inspired much speculation. Is it an Olympic-size swimming pool for the fitness-conscious first couple? A more spacious bunker? A place, perhaps, to hide the deficit?
The General Services Administration says it is an elaborate renovation of the building’s aging air-conditioning and electrical systems. These upgrades take place periodically, a G.S.A. spokeswoman, Sara Merriam, said, adding that Washington’s Big Dig would soon continue on the other side of the White House grounds.
“As part of this project,” Ms. Merriam said in an e-mail, “G.S.A. has been excavating and installing replacement utilities in front of the West Wing and once this phase is complete will sequentially upgrade utilities moving to the North Lawn over to the East Wing.”
The final phase of construction will take place near the Presidential Emergency Operations Center, made famous as the spot where Vice President Dick Cheney took shelter in the hours after the 9/11 attacks while his boss remained on Air Force One, awaiting the all-clear to return to Washington.
Although White House officials say they don’t know too much about the construction, some have said they think it is, as one put it, “security related.”
Another White House official said that the construction would eventually link whatever is being built underground with the operations center, which was originally built during the administration of Franklin D. Roosevelt — the idea being a general expansion of an emergency base of operations.
“It is security-related construction,” said the official, who was not authorized to speak publicly about the project. “Even we don’t know exactly what.”
A larger operations center would reduce the need for emergency evacuations to shadow government locations like Mount Weather in Bluemont, Va., and would help ensure “continuity of government,” as Mr. Cheney has put it.
Despite the size of the hole, the controlled silence of the construction workers and the fact that funds were allocated after Sept. 11, 2001, Ms. Merriam maintains it is all business as usual. “The type, size and complexities of work associated with the replacement of the utility infrastructure systems necessitates that extensive excavation and support structures are erected to effectively and safely conduct this work,” she said.
Pebble Beach, the unofficial name for the raised platform where television news correspondents do stand-up shots from the White House lawn, offers a clear view of the hole. Camera crews have watched the construction process and regard it with a wink and a nod.
“It’s all about air-conditioning, right?” said one when asked what he knew about the work being done.
“Yeah, that’s right,” replied another, with a smirk. “Air-conditioning.”