Wed, Jul 22, 2009 - Page 3 News List

Presidential Office admits security lapse

MYSTERY VISITOR A woman who had filed 65 appeals to the office and had been spotted near the building in the past was able to sneak onto the fifth floor last month

STAFF WRITER, WITH CNA

Presidential Office Spokesman Wang Yu-chi (王郁琦) confirmed yesterday that an unidentified woman in her 50s had sneaked into the Presidential Office building late last month and lingered for more than 30 minutes before being discovered.

President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九), who was on a trip to Central America at the time, called a meeting upon his return to look into the matter. He instructed that those responsible for the security lapse be penalized, Wang told a press conference.

Wang said the woman sneaked into the building on June 30 through the No. 4 entrance, escaping the notice of security guards, and took an elevator to the fifth floor, where the National Security Council (NSC) office is located.

The woman acted suspiciously and asked strange questions, and NSC officials, realizing that she was not a council staffer, asked security guards to take her downstairs, Wang said.

The woman was briefly detained and questioned by Presidential Office security, he said.

Several of the guards on duty at the time were penalized after they admitted to dereliction of duty. Their superiors also received various demerits, he said.

The case has highlighted the need to maintain vigilance, he said.

“The incident serves as a warning that security at the Presidential Office needs to be bolstered,” he said.

Police records showed that the woman had been observed several times in the vicinity of the Presidential Office since 1996 and had submitted 65 appeals to the office, all of which were incoherent, Wang said.

In light of concerns for the president’s safety, military police also convened a meeting to look into the incident, he said.

Ma’s safety has been in the spotlight because of a series of incidents since he took office.

More than NT$1 million (US$30,500) in air conditioning equipment was removed from Ma’s official residence during renovations at the residence last year before Ma moved in and thrown out by workers who mistook it for junk. Police at first thought the equipment had been stolen, raising questions about security at the residence.

In March, lawmakers across party lines questioned the construction of a luxury residential tower in front of the presidential residence. The National Security Bureau said at the time that it was not in a position to comment on the matter, as the 23-story building was not being built in a restricted area.

The bureau promised, however, to step up security in Ma’s neighborhood.

ADDITIONAL REPORTING BY JENNY W. HSU

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