6 Places That Are Shockingly Easy to Break Into
You know from many a caper movie that there are just some places you can't get into without a team of hackers and George Clooney. But some of the most secure locations in the world have been breached by children, drunks and hobos who didn't even necessarily know where they were or what day it was.
It turns out that the only thing keeping most of these places safe is that not a lot of people actually try to get in. When they do, they find it's not all that hard to infiltrate ...
The White House
If you were asked to name the most secure location on planet Earth, you'd probably guess that it's the home of the President of the United States. We mean, it's got to be that or Area 51, right?
Actually, people manage to infiltrate the White House all the damn time. It's a long-standing tradition of terrifying security breaches that started when Charles Dickens (yes, that Charles Dickens) broke into the White House in 1842 when President Tyler failed to answer the door fast enough.
"It was the best of times and the worst of security systems."
Naturally, after three presidents were assassinated between 1865 and 1901, security was elevated quite a bit. But a hell of a lot of people pass through the White House, and the CIA doesn't necessarily have the time or manpower to keep an eye on every one of them. The historian Bill Bryson told a tale of a little old lady named Julia Chase who once broke away from a White House tour group and walked around the mansion for over an hour, "setting small fires."
"I like to imagine I'm freeing the souls of wronged children."
But the latest national crisis to spawn from some random White House intrusion was in 2009, at a state dinner for the Prime Minister of India. Tareq and Michaele Salahi were not invited to the event, but nonetheless they showed up anyway, walking past two security checkpoints due to the insistence of police officers outside to keep the line moving. Once inside, a few suspicious workers tried to confirm who they were, but to no avail, and the couple managed to spend the evening at the gala, even meeting Barack Obama and having a photo taken with Joe Biden.
lol OMG ur dress iz sooooo pretyt lol!!!!!!1
White House security wasn't aware of the intrusion until the next day, when the Salahis bragged about their stunt on Facebook. It just goes to show that although the Secret Service may slip up once in a while, Mark Zuckerberg is always watching.
Nuclear Power Plants
One important lesson we learned from Japan earlier this year is that it's easy to forget how terrifying nuclear power plants are when they're not melting down. Nuclear plants have to be designed with all kinds of safety precautions to prevent them from converting a hundred square miles of country into a place where you could film a fake moon landing. So we're definitely safe from anyone crazy enough to want to blow one up, right? Sure. Unless they have wire cutters!
The only thing that separates this man from a supervillain is a short drive and some elbow grease.
In 2003, Greenpeace decided to break into the Sizewell B nuclear plant in England, just to see if they could do it. They came armed only with dreadlocks, tie-dyed T-shirts and wire cutters, the only tools they figured would release an acceptable level of carbon emissions. Luckily for them (but not so much for us), the most high-tech security system they came up against was a fence and a sign asking them to please not come in and blow up the power plant.
A very short time later, the activists were in the central control room of the plant, looking at a whole bunch of big red buttons with "For the love of God do not ever push" written on them.
"Damnit, now I have to push it!"
But surely this was just a freak event that could never, ever happen again, right? Greenpeace decided to test this theory in 2010 when they tried to break into a nuclear plant in Sweden. Once again, they just jumped a fence, and they were inside. It's just pure luck that, rather than a bunch of terrorists with suitcase bombs, they were hippies in stupid-looking wind turbine costumes who were only there to yell at people.
Yep, we view this person with total, unwavering seriousness.
When you imagine what Wikipedia calls "the greatest art theft of the 20th century," you're probably envisioning some amazing Ocean's Eleven-style caper. In reality, the true story of the guy who stole the freaking Mona Lisa from the Louvre makes it sound like you or any of your friends could have done it.
Depending on the manliness of your mustaches.
In 1911, an ordinary Italian carpenter named Vincenzo Peruggia hatched a plot to steal the world's most famous work of art from the world's most famous art museum. And by "plot," we mean that he hid in a storeroom until the Louvre was closed and stuffed the Mona Lisa under his shirt. Then he walked out.
The numerous guards he passed on the way out figured that he was an employee, and thought nothing of the oddly square bulge in his clothing.
"Sweet necklace, bro."
When the theft had been discovered, the Louvre authorities had no idea it had just been smuggled out by some random douche. In fact, they suspected some kind of conspiratorial shenanigans. One theory was that Germany had orchestrated the heist in an elaborate "up yours" to France. Hundreds of people were questioned, including Pablo Picasso, who apparently had some kind of major beef against anatomically accurate portraits.
"You call that a portrait, da Vinci? Come back when you have the syphilis needed to make real art."
In any event, it was with a pretty heavy heart that the Mona Lisa was assumed lost forever. That is, until the thief tried to sell it. That's right, the master criminal who managed to pull the world's greatest art heist was the kind of genius who thought he could just sell the Mona Lisa without anybody getting suspicious about where he had gotten it.
The Home of the British Prime Minister (10 Downing Street)
Obadiah Marius is probably the worst cat burglar in England, having been arrested 78 times in 30 years for his serial inability to break into things and get away with it.
While most people would probably just switch to a hobby more suited to their skills, like collecting whiskey bottles, Marius decided for some reason to actually up the ante on his criminal antics and break into the home of the British Prime Minister, 10 Downing Street. We presume nobody was more surprised than Marius that he succeeded.
But first, he had to get through scores of security guards and ... oh.
In 2008, Marius entered the British center of government with his Lithuanian girlfriend, armed only with her Lithuanian national ID card, which he flashed at security. They let him through without reading it, because apparently the only condition needed to see the Prime Minister is that you have a card of any description.
"Very well, you may enter five times."
Weirder, Marius was a drug addict, and not really one of those drug addicts who could pass easily for a foreign diplomat on his way to a delegate conference. Nevertheless, he had the run of the building, unchecked, for almost an hour. So this petty criminal was just randomly going through top minister offices before security staff decided that the track-suit-wearing man with the shaved head who was stuffing things into his pockets was probably not a visiting world leader. At least not from any first-world nation.
That's him on the right ... walking around in not-prison after 78 arrests.
Red Square During the Cold War
During the Cold War, you couldn't get further behind the iron curtain than Red Square, the heart of Moscow that's bordered by the Kremlin, the Soviet seat of government. A Westerner infiltrating Red Square would have been like Stalin strolling onto the White House lawn. But it totally happened in 1987, when a West German teenager landed a plane in Red Square as though it was the tarmac of LAX.
After an arms reduction deal between the USA and the USSR went awry, 19-year-old Mathias Rust decided for some reason it was up to him to help reduce tension between the Soviets and the West. His plan? Fly a small Cessna from Finland across the Baltic and into Russia, just so the two sides would have something to talk about again.
That's him, leaning against his plane like it ain't no thang.
It's not at all clear why a small airplane getting shot down by a dozen Soviet fighter jets would end the Cold War, but whatever. Much to everyone's surprise, he didn't get shot down. And in fact, Rust's ill-advised journey actually did help to end the Cold War, if only because his success proved to the Russians that their defenses were utterly hopeless.
When Rust's tiny little plane came in contact with Russian radar, the system proved surprisingly shoddy, with the plane flickering on and off the radar screen. At the same time, the military couldn't decide whether the aircraft was an enemy or not, so they delayed the order to shoot it the hell out of the sky.
"I apologize for my balls not being here. They required a larger courtroom."
Amazed that he had survived his suicidal journey this far, Rust decided to go the whole nine yards and land in Red Square, which he did, while Soviet authorities wringed their hands and tried to decide what to do about it. After Rust disembarked and chatted to people for a few minutes, Moscow police finally decided to arrest him.
But the damage was done, and Gorbachev fired his defense minister, as well as several other Soviet military leaders whose job it was to prevent something like this from happening. Today, the plane is in a museum and Rust is a professional poker player, as he obviously knows a thing or two about gambling, or at least about the art of not giving a shit.
Buckingham Palace is the home of the Queen of Britain, and because frail old ladies are rarely known for their self-defense mastery, it should be about the most secure building in the country. Indeed, the palace has almost never been broken into. It just turns out that it's because nobody has ever tried.
Not until 1982, anyway, when an unemployed drunk named Michael Fagan simply strolled in and woke the queen up to have a chat.
"I needed to know if she had any Grey Poupon."
As if that weren't brazen enough, Fagan's unscheduled audience with the queen occurred on his second intrusion into the Royal Palace. Both times, Fagan evaded security cameras, servants, James Bonds and all those guards with the big furry hats in what should have looked like the climactic scene from the next Mission: Impossible movie. And what was his genius plan? Well, he didn't have one. He just jumped over a fence, climbed a drainpipe and slipped through an open window.
So the guy just lucked out, right? Well, here's where the story gets weirder. On his first attempt, Fagan was spotted by a maid while he was shimmying up the drainpipe. The maid called security, and security "decided not to act," presumably arguing that if they investigated every report of drainpipe-climbing hobos they would never get any work done. Once he actually got inside, all the alarms turned out to be broken. Finding himself in the kind of fantasy situation that thousands of British anarchists masturbate over, Fagan simply stole a bottle of wine. It wasn't even good wine. He was in the queen's house and he took a bottle of $6 plonk, then left.
"Oh, honey, that's nice. What is that, Mad Dog 20/20?"
One month later, Fagan came back. Climbing back up the drainpipe, he found the window still unlocked and decided to visit the queen. And although they'd fixed the alarms this time, the guards again didn't respond, assuming it was a bunch of false alarms. At this point we have to wonder what these guys actually do for a living.
This time Fagan managed to cut his hand on a broken ashtray before entering the queen's bedroom. When the queen awoke to find a stranger at her bedside, ominously dripping blood on her duvet, she made the reasonable decision to call security. And surely they came running at the queen's personal behest, right?
Nope. From her calm tone of voice, they assumed that her situation wasn't urgent. And we like to think that, when she called the police and identified herself as the queen, they replied "Right, lady, and I'm Napoleon."
And that the officer was, in fact, Napoleon.
Queen Elizabeth was forced to engage Fagan in banal conversation for 10 minutes until a maid entered the bedroom and asked what he was doing there, to which the queen presumably replied, "You fucking tell me." Even after all that, Fagan couldn't actually be charged for his adventure because it turned out the justice system forgot to make breaking into Buckingham Palace a crime. The only thing they could arrest him for? Stealing that cheap bottle of wine.
For more places that you want to break into, check out 6 Incredible Real-World Supervillain Lairs and 6 Massive Secret Operations That Are Hidden All Around You.