- The Washington Times - Saturday, July 12, 2003

ENTEBBE, Uganda — Ugandan authorities yesterday arrested a stowaway who hitched a ride on President Bush’s press plane and penetrated the grounds of a hotel where Mr. Bush was speaking.

“At no time was the president in any danger,” said Deputy Secret Service Director Mark Sullivan.

The unidentified man was jailed and charged by Ugandan authorities with illegal entry, Mr. Sullivan added.

The incident was considered a major security breach and triggered an immediate escalation of security measures surrounding the traveling White House entourage. It also pointed up uneven security precautions for the president himself as he visited this nation that has a reported al Qaeda presence.

The stowaway, who had no passport or credentials, joined more than 100 credentialed journalists as they boarded chartered buses early yesterday outside the Holiday Inn in Pretoria, South Africa, where Mr. Bush had spent several days.

He was initially barred from boarding a bus by a U.S. Embassy employee because he had no press credentials, according to reporter April Ryan of Urban Radio Networks. But he somehow managed to board the bus and took the 20-minute ride to Waterkloof Air Force Base.

Once on the base, he boarded the chartered press plane that always shadows Air Force One. Undetected by the plane’s usual contingent of three Secret Service agents, the stowaway sat in Row 54 and was served a spinach fritata by smiling flight attendants.

After a nearly four-hour flight, the United 747 landed at the Entebbe International Airport and the stowaway boarded one of several chartered press buses, riding 15 minutes to the Imperial Botanical Beach Hotel on the shore of Lake Victoria. He got off the bus and walked into a building that had been set up as the press-filing center.

A short time later, he walked outside the filing center and stood just yards away from the presidential motorcade as Mr. Bush entered the hotel grounds. An alert White House staffer, Curtis Jablonka, grew suspicious of the man after questioning him and notified the Secret Service.

Ugandan authorities and the Secret Service grabbed the man and searched him, but found no weapons. The man shouted loudly as he was physically removed from the hotel grounds.

“Help,” he yelled. “They’re going to kill me.”

The man told journalists he was from Soweto, South Africa.

The episode highlighted the uneven security procedures surrounding Mr. Bush as he toured this eastern African nation. Although the stowaway was denied entry to the presidential speech, several legitimate journalists who lacked credentials were admitted.

Security was tightened immediately after yesterday’s arrest of the stowaway. Reporters returning to the airport had their credentials and luggage thoroughly checked by security forces and bomb-sniffing dogs.

The incident, however, did not prevent Mr. Bush yesterday from touting his administration’s $15 billion initiative to combat AIDS/HIV in Africa and the Caribbean.

Speaking in the courtyard of an AIDS clinic where he met with about two dozen patients, Mr. Bush vowed to combat the deadly disease that has ravaged the African continent. He praised Uganda’s president, Yoweri Museveni, for his government’s latest awareness campaign, which promotes the “A,B,C,D” of HIV — “abstain,” change “behavior,” use “condoms,” or “die.”

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