Johnstown, Pa. — An unidentified photographer breached Joe Biden’s Secret Service perimeter this afternoon as the candidate boarded his charter plane in Pennsylvania.
The Democratic presidential nominee and his wife, Jill, were walking up the plane staircase from their motorcade at the Johnstown-Cambria County Airport when a man with a camera made his way onto the small airport tarmac, around the plane’s rear and under its left wing to join the group of credentialed press corps traveling with Biden who were watching the couple board.
Soon after reaching the area under the plane wing, the man was intercepted by a Secret Service agent and physically removed. The man flashed an orange pass around his neck, declared himself a photographer, and initially resisted the agent trying to pull him away.
CBS News was part of Biden’s limited traveling press corps and witnessed the altercation under the plane.
The man apparently either jumped a green, six-foot fence near the small terminal where a few dozen people gathered or entered the tarmac through an unauthorized pedestrian gate, the airport’s general manager Chad Gontkovic told CBS News. The unidentified man proceeded approximately 75 yards to Biden’s plane, which was surrounded on all sides by Secret Service agents, a more than eight-car motorcade and other local law enforcement.
“A member of the media who was credentialed for an event earlier in the day attempted to gain access to the airport tarmac for the departure of Presidential Candidate Biden,” a Secret Service spokesperson told CBS News in a statement. “The individual encountered law enforcement, disregarded their instructions, and accessed the tarmac. U.S. Secret Service personnel apprehended the individual and escorted him from the area.”
The Biden campaign did not respond to a request for comment.
“We’re all relieved to hear Secret Service was able to stop this individual with a camera in his hand but the frightening reality is that it could have been a gun,” retired FBI agent and security consultant Katherine Schweit told CBS News.
“What occurred today was a breach of security, but not necessarily a breach of protocol,” Schweit added. “When that happens, Secret Service will re-evaluate whether or not their protocols were appropriate, and I’m sure that’s underway right now to ensure that the vice president will be safe in future stops.”
Due to COVID-19 safety procedures, Biden’s campaign allows a small “pooled” press corps of a dozen people representing TV, radio and print reporters, along with still photographers, to follow Biden’s every move as part of his motorcade and at events.
The traveling press corps undergoes a security sweep each morning by Secret Service agents before joining Biden.
As the potential next president, Biden’s travel security is strict. Motorcades and a security perimeter swarm the candidate as they did on Thursday, when security followed the former vice president from his home in Wilmington, Delaware, to the New York City 9/11 Memorial and then through Pennsylvania for a visit to the Flight 93 National Memorial.
Biden flew out of the Johnstown airport after visiting local volunteer firefighters in nearby Shanksville, Pennsylvania.
The Democratic presidential candidate was granted full Secret Service protection in March as the presumptive nominee after protestors rushed his stage on Super Tuesday and had to be forcefully removed by Jill Biden and other campaign aides.
Arden Farhi and Andy Triay contributed to this story.