Graffiti on Air Force One?

Here’s a video of a bunch of graffiti artists breaching security at Andrew’s Air Force Base, and tagging an Air Force One plane.

I know there are multiple planes—four, I think—and that they are in different states of active service at any one time. And, presumably, the different planes have different security levels depending on their status. Still, part of me thinks this is a hoax.

One, this is the sort of stunt that can get you shot at. And two, posting a video of this can get you arrested.

Anyone know anything about this?

EDITED TO ADD (4/21): It’s a hoax.

Posted on April 18, 2006 at 1:10 PM75 Comments


AaronVan April 18, 2006 1:22 PM

It certainly looks real; however, perhaps it is an airframe in the process of being decommissioned from POTUS duty. That might explain the lack of security. I can’t believe the fence doesn’t have motion detectors.

Zwack April 18, 2006 1:25 PM

It’s worth reading all of the legal disclaimer as it explains exactly why this “stunt” was created.

go, read, ponder…


Bruce Schneier April 18, 2006 1:30 PM

“From the site’s legal page: ‘You, the viewer of the preceeding are hereby advised that the video does not depict a real event.'”

We have no way of knowing if the event is real or not. Presumably the guards at Andrews Air Force Base, who either saw the graffiti or not, know if the event is real or not.

So if it’s not real, what’s the point? (Yeah, I read what they said the point is, but I don’t think it makes much sense.)

LKM April 18, 2006 1:36 PM

Ecko isn’t some random tagger. He’s quite famous and even has his own console game. I’m sure he has the money to fake something like this. It’s probably a publicity stunt.

Bruce Schneier April 18, 2006 1:55 PM

“Ecko isn’t some random tagger. He’s quite famous and even has his own console game. I’m sure he has the money to fake something like this. It’s probably a publicity stunt.”

Well if that’s the case I just gave him some more publicity.

His personal video — to the right of the tagging video — makes some points near to my heart. He’s right that “solving” the graffiti problem by restricting the sale of spray paint is wrong, and un-American. (Reminds me of the DMCA, and such-like laws.)

Doug April 18, 2006 2:38 PM

Ecko is a vandal and criminal, pure and simple. Spraypainting property that you do not own is, and rightly should be, criminal. The legal line between protected speech and advocating criminal behavior isn’t clear, but the moral line is: If it’s not yours, you shouldn’t spraypaint it.

Erik V. Olson April 18, 2006 2:54 PM


1) There can only be one Air Force One — it only exists when the President is on a plane operated by the Air Force. Navy One was the callsign of the navy aircraft that Bush flew to the Lincoln on, and Marine One is very common. Rare is Army One, and if it should happen, we would have Coast Guard One. (If the President were to fly on a non-miltary plane, the call would be Executive One.)

The above applies also to the Vice President, except the call is “whatever two.”

2) The aircraft commonly used as Air Force One are two VC-25As, tail numbers 28000 and 29000, which are heavily modified 747-200s.

So, the answer to “How many” is “Normally none, occasionally and no more than one, but there are two aircraft that fly the vast majority of the time as Air Force One.”

Andrew April 18, 2006 4:11 PM

This is minor compared to Red Cell did at Point Mugu back in the pre 9/11 days. Kind of embarrassing to “lose” — in a security training exercise — an aircraft frequently used as Air Force One. That one was videotaped as well, if I recall correctly. During the exercise the “tangos” took out the ready munitions storage and the base EOD and SWAT teams as well.

evan April 18, 2006 5:41 PM


Yeah you can still get the video from amazon:

I used to be a bif fan of the Rogue Warrior series when I was a kid (let’s see, I remember Task Force Blue coming out about when I lost interest… 1997… at 13ish).

The Ecko video might be real, in spite of that legal page. If he claimed it was real and it was, the government would prosecute him. If he claims that it’s fake, the government doesn’t have to admit to such a gross lapse of security and Ecko doesn’t go to jail.

Dragonhunter April 18, 2006 7:31 PM

Well, it is apparently fake, and it is certainly stupid. Politics aside, giving some kid the idea to try this for real is not a terribly bright idea. Air Force flight line security types don’t play. They are serious. Even if you’re in uniform in broad daylight.

Yes, free speech is a great thing. Using it to ‘cover’ illiegal activity (ie vandalism) is crap that the framers of the constitution and bill of rights never intended.

RC April 18, 2006 7:40 PM

the legal disclaimer hints that the disclaimer itself is fictional:

“Furthermore, and without limitation now, since the beginning of time and without perpituity….”

Jilara April 18, 2006 7:44 PM

Back when I was dating an Air Force crew chief, he said one of the things they were constantly on the lookout for was “test raids” where military guys from elsewhere would come in and try to damage/sabotage aircraft. Sort of like seeing if a fake bomb gets through airport screening. If they got through your security, you were in DEEEEP trouble. No one ever tried tagging, though…but I’d put it on the same footing.

jeff April 18, 2006 9:13 PM

@Erik V. Olson

1) There can only be one Air Force One — it only exists when the President is on a plane operated by the Air Force.

I understand this to be true as well. This lead to a brain teaser from my flight instructor along the lines of

“We all know that unless you’re still in the air or have crashed, the number of take offs equal the number of landings for a plane. However, Air Force One has had one more take off than landing and Air Force One has never crashed and is not currently flying. How can this be?”

Well, it turns out that Pres Nixon was on Air Force One in the air, when his resignation was effective, therefore it lost its designation and reverted to a normal military flight. One more take off than landing.

nbk2000 April 19, 2006 12:56 AM

Looking at the source code for the page Bruce linked to, you get this for the link to the video:


Note the word ‘viral’?

Sounds like this was intended as a ‘viral’ marketing stunt to me.

Tank April 19, 2006 2:38 AM

What’s in question isn’t whether something was graffittied to attract attention and market the artist. That goes without saying.

What settings the web designer used for the display of the video really has no bearing on anything.

Video looks real and it is doubtful that someone who’s reputation relies on their credibility (WTF you think “street cred” is short for) would fake something like this and try and pass it off as real if it wasn’t.

betabug April 19, 2006 3:11 AM

“Ecko is a vandal and criminal, pure and simple. Spraypainting property that you do not own is, and rightly should be, criminal.”

Yeah, send all the kids with a can of spraypaint to Guantanamo!

Come on, “criminal”! Get a life, man. Why don’t you amerlocs jail all of your population at once, so we can get over with things? I’m sure everybody is a criminal at some point when you start using the same word for armed robbery and for putting some ugly paint on a storefront.

It’s just a pitty they didn’t paint some boobs and asses on the fscking plane, then we would get the lame comments from the “this is NSFW” whiners too!

Jungsonn April 19, 2006 5:30 AM

Don’t overrate organic security.

A friend of mine who works at a local airport as head security (i live in the Netherlands btw.) He told me once that it is (as today) very difficult to get inside the complex. But he states, if they buy my kecard-pas they can go everywhere.
(it’s like having the master password for every password) These passes he states “are bidded for around 1 million $” So i ask him: “What if i could give you 2 mill.” he says: “No i won’t sell it” and what if i give you 5? He says “No”

ok what about 12?

“Now i start to question myself”

So the human factor galore…

Jungsonn April 19, 2006 5:35 AM

Oh yeah this is sweet:

So, If someone breaks into his house (poor security) and steals the pass. He also have it.

Obtain it in it’s weakest links.

Henning Makholm April 19, 2006 7:25 AM

Jungsonn: If somebody sells an airport security clearance for $12e6, how could they be sure that the bad guys will not blackmail back their money once the pass has been used to commit something atrocious? You’d need to disappear completely, leaving friends and family behind. Is mere money worth that?

Matthew Skala April 19, 2006 7:28 AM

These passes he states “are bidded for around 1 million $”

Considering how many people must have those passes, is it really plausible that they’re all paid and screened well enough to resist a bribe of less than a million dollars?

Tony April 19, 2006 7:29 AM

@jeff, Erik V. Olson

So did the plane that LBJ was sworn in on after the death of President Kennedy take off as Air Force 2 and land as Air Force 1?

jeff April 19, 2006 7:38 AM

@ Tony

So did the plane that LBJ was sworn in on after the death of President Kennedy take off as Air Force 2 and land as Air Force 1?

Possibly. I did say that he was a flight instructor, not a history professor, right? Now you’re making me look up the right answer. . . .

Doug April 19, 2006 11:37 AM

Air Force One would be in its own league, but while I was in the USMC it was common practice for transient aircraft visiting our airfield to be so tagged. Not with any political message, but with our squadron logo stencil or (less bold) decals.

Those Air Force security guys ain’t all that…

Kendal April 19, 2006 7:11 PM

The real argument to have about graffiti is about property vs. space, pure an simple.

We inhabit space, we move through familiar public locations, we occupy streets and parks and travel in public transport. That ‘space’ is impacted by the owners of property, and the powers that mandate what stays and what goes, this also includes monuments, sculptures and other aesthetic additions.

Our space is our space, but we have little to no control over it. We can move through it, but cannot independantly dictate the physical or visual realms we inhabit. This fact is dictated to us. A two dimentional statement like, “Spraypainting property that you do not own is, and rightly should be, criminal.” is a pre-fabricated thought.

Be mindful then, of the prefabricated ideas which occupy your mind.

Who put them there and why?

Isn’t the outside of a building really yours? Doesn’t the image exist in your eyes, in your mind? Why is it such a stretch to claim that visual space as your own? Start thinking, stop reacting, try to have your own ideas.

erasmus April 20, 2006 11:53 AM

Good point, but does that argument mean that any exterior can ‘belong’ to Ecko, to squirt on like a tom cat? Does he have more rights to do that in preference to you or I?
Or are you making a case for planning laws and public consultation?

Doug April 20, 2006 12:55 PM

Hi Kendal and betabug,

Tell you what: Publish your home address invite vandals to spraypaint your house. That’s your right as a property owner. Assuming that you like the result, it’s likely that the city to enforce it’s ordinance against graffitti and force you to pay to clean it off. Either way, you’re forced to pay real money to repair the vandalism.

Spraypainting property is fundamentally no different than smashing windows or puncturing tires. I’m by no means advocating restricting spraypaint, anymore than I’m advocating restricting hammers or any other tool – it’s ineffective (witness gun control).

I am advocating charging people who vandalize property as criminals, prosecuting them, and forcing them to pay restitution, as well as jail time for habitial offenders. “If you can’t do the time, don’t do the crime.” Vandalism is criminal behavior.

Now as to the esoteric argument about ‘space’, please note that we do not live in a collectivist or communist society. I own real property, and no individual (government does that right under certain circumstances) has the right to intrude upon that property and damage it. Their free speech ends at my property line.

Pedro April 20, 2006 1:44 PM

Isn’t government property the property of the citizens of this country? Can’t YOUR property cause reactions from some people the way graffiti affects your property?

whizkidd120 April 21, 2006 12:11 PM

What if it really did happen and the government required Ecko to add the legal as a cover for a breach in security? It would be way worse for the AFB to admit that indeed two kids got past the guards than to pawn it off as a hoax. I’m sure marc will and has faced consequeces…especially now that it is breaking on world news.

What a Load April 21, 2006 5:50 PM

“Isn’t the outside of a building really yours”? What a load. You know what images exist in my eyes, in my mind? The mortgage bill, the insurance bill, the tax bill, and the summons from the city to clean off the outside of my building. Try to have a clue. What an idiot.

What a Load April 21, 2006 5:55 PM

And as for Whizkid, I just saw Elvis, JFK and the Easter Bunny out shopping for a birthday present for the Loch Ness Monster. SHould I tell anyone, or keep it on the DL?

Anonymous April 21, 2006 11:02 PM

The story is a hoax.

This is what the guy said: Ecko acknowledged Friday that his company had rented a 747 cargo jet at San Bernardino’s airport and covertly painted one side to look like Air Force One. Employees signed secrecy agreements and worked inside a giant hangar until the night the video was made. Ecko declined to say how much the stunt cost.

“It’s not cheap,” he said. “You have to be rich.”

Jacob April 22, 2006 3:38 PM


anon April 23, 2006 1:04 AM

I really wouldn’t want to read up an article on Bruce’s site only to realize later that it was fake and a publicity stunt. It undermines the reputation of this site.

Bruce Schneier April 23, 2006 8:06 AM

“I really wouldn’t want to read up an article on Bruce’s site only to realize later that it was fake and a publicity stunt. It undermines the reputation of this site.”

This wasn’t the first time I posted information that turned out to be a hoax, and it probably won’t be the last. I post updated information as soon as I have it, and I’m willing to live with the reputation hit. Life’s just like that.

Jimbob April 23, 2006 9:31 AM

A couple of facts:

There are 2 VC-25 (military designation for the Boeing 747 aircraft that serve as the primary presidential transports), tail numbers 28,000 and 29,000.

Air Force One is the call sign of any fixed wing aircraft, flown by the US Air Force, that is carrying the President – not just the 747 types most commonly seen.

No matter what state either of these aircraft might be in at a given time (maintenace, training, between flights, etc.), the liklihood that an unauthorized person could get near enough to paint graffiti on any engine cowl (without an M16 round to the head) is exactly ZERO.

mermaldad April 23, 2006 9:10 PM

Not that I condone grafitti, but if Mark Ecko rented the plane (and I assume part of the rental agreement allowed him to paint the plane), then how is he a vandal?

Xander April 24, 2006 5:03 AM

It was a fake Airforce One. I saw it in person at the San Bernardino International Airport, inside a hangar. I work in film production and we shot a Lincoln Navigator commercial on the tarmack there. It was only painted like AF1 on one side. Still pretty impressive standing next to a plane of that size!

Matthew Skala April 26, 2006 11:30 AM

Y’know, Jacob, a lot of folks think that posting all-caps messages with a lot of exclamation points as Web log comments, is vandalism. John 8:7 applies.

PHANTOM,Phila.,PA April 29, 2006 10:00 PM

Graffiti,like it or not, has been with us since the dawn of man, and always will be . We writers still have spine, courage, and fraternity, not to mention talent. Deep down, don’t you wish you could be one of us? See you in the ruins…..PHANTOM!

Kendal May 1, 2006 6:04 AM

Doug and ‘What a Load’

Maybe you should look into just how much freedom you really have regarding the exterior of your property anyway, you’ll find there’s a greater restriction on the owner’s ability to alter the apperance (cosmetic or structural) that you might think.

You can blog and post what you like online with a chance at annonimity, but try to paint your house a bright and nasty colour, or with statements which you’re free to make under various ‘freedom of expression’ laws, and you’ll find your local authorities acting on the complaints of your neighbours, forcing you to remove what you did.

So who really controls the exterior of your property?

Think a little harder and get back to us with your counterpoint, it’ll be interesting to read what a backflip sounds like.

Stephen May 24, 2006 9:09 PM

So…all caps messages are vandalism? lol um there is no damage to property there so uh…you are wrong. Why do people have to spray paint on property? Why can’t they paint their stuff on what a real professional would? Even if it is the size of a wall? Is this because no one can “see it?” Maybe they should take a poll and see how many people actually want to see it in the first place…the only meaning of most graffiti is to the maker, not anyone else. Pointless.

HardRom May 28, 2006 4:13 PM

I feel stupider for reading all of these responses. Ecko set this up as a publicity stunt. End of story. Ppl freaking out because of the vandalism aspect should really lighten up.

Tagging is a crime, but there are some ppl who have the skills to make a statement as well as art. Those loops and swirls on your garage are vandalism.

Stacy June 12, 2006 5:28 PM

Who are you to say whats vandalism? Who are you to say you own property, who are you to say numbers are real when numbers are abstracts in the human mind? who are you to say iam free and not free? Who are you to say these are restrictions rather then guidlines? Who are you to compare acts of hate such as Someone Throwing A Baseball In Your Window To Injure you and a kid Accidentally hitting your window and injuring you. ….

Max June 12, 2006 5:35 PM

To begin with, representational art as a voice and language dates back to early Paleolithic Europe, and has evolved intelligently at a consistently rapid pace, developing a more involved and intricate vernacular of visual communications right up to the middle of the twentietth century when, for some unknown reason, it was curtailed. This cruicial form of graphic expression will probably eventually eclipse any art mode that suppresses it. The problem stems from the fact that possibly seven or eight individuals in agrop of a hundred have the capicity, dextrity and wil to express themselves in a pictorial syntax. But simply relegating these few artists to the status of facile drones and sub-intellectuals with quaint drawing skills is not preparing oneself for the eventual jolt of having to deal with brilliant draftsmen who are gifted with the additional cerebral skills of abstract thought. It is good to keep in mind that “abstract” does not always mean sloppy.

SilenceIsDeath June 15, 2006 12:59 AM

“Their free speech ends at my property line.

Posted by: Doug at April 20, 2006 12:55 PM”

Free speech knows no bounds, holds no restrictions. It is a basic human right which no man has the moral ability to deny to any other man.

Roger June 15, 2006 7:22 PM

Nice, high sounding phrasing — and completely incorrect. Every country in the world has valid abridgements to freedom of speech. Under international law, these abridgements do not violate human rights if they follow a three part test:
1. they must be provided by law;
2. they must pursue an aim widely recognized as legitimate; and
3. they must be necessary for the accomplishment of that aim.

Exact abridgements vary from country to country but three which are almost universal are laws against defamation, laws against fraud, and laws against sedition. Other very common abridgements include laws about sub judice court cases, copyright, conspiracy, espionage, and hate speech.

arbitrary July 3, 2006 2:59 AM

Forgive me for being blunt but, given proper notification, it is Legal to shoot someone on your property…

Tresspassers will be shot.

Freedom of speech can be negated, and certialy within law, on the wrong end of a shotgun.

All it takes is one stated and factual premise to ensure a legal binding and quell superfluous notions about freedom of speech being undeniable.

There is a freedom of speech and, yes it does hold limitations; especially when noted about damaging my property with your undeniable right.

And to stacey… Please lay off the drugs you really do sound like you’re from the 60’s. I do own my property. That stated fact is in the contract I got when I purchased it.

As a society; our notions about property both real and intellectual are, in fact, in effect. Try copyright infringement for once and you’ll see. Think it’s a joke? Test it.

fuZe July 19, 2006 1:43 PM

it is a hoax orgainized marc ecko he got a normal plane and painted it the same colour as airforce1 he says you couldnt do it normally you have to be rich

*zEphYr_ July 20, 2006 1:10 AM

all ya’ll are stupid and marc ecko don’t just have his own game, he has his own full clothing line and first got big by taggin and bombin erywhere he went. taggin aint just some punk kids writin giberish on the wall. its people expressin freedom of speech by usin artwork on the only canvas they got and were people can appreciate it. and u guys think some stupid signs r gunna keep these kids from taggin up your set, that will just make them wanna do it more

arbitrary July 23, 2006 11:23 PM

Well.. that last post certainly made me want to support abortions.
Grow up and get a job. Making a point like
“its people expressin freedom of speech by usin artwork on the only canvas they got and were people can appreciate it”
really undermines your credibility as an opposition as well as your apparent lack of education. Really; how overused can a cliche, like freedom of speech, get for people who don’t understand the implications involved to use them.

I know I wouldn’t appreciate that gibberish on my wall and I would do anything and everything within my rights to ensure that the deed was “corrected”.

They just need to change the signs to “Taggers will be Shot”. I know that I’ll be the one laughing when someone tests it.

And common dude… even if you don’t know how to spell there is a little thing called spellcheck that can root out those “erywhere”, “expressin???, “usin??? “ya’ll”, and “r”s.

peppesbodega2 September 2, 2006 7:34 PM

So did the plane that LBJ was sworn in on after the death of President Kennedy take off as Air Force 2 and land as Air Force 1? <<<

Kennedy was transported back on the same plane so the president was already onboard.

bronco187crew December 28, 2006 1:18 AM

you ppl ar a bunch of rednecks (well most anyway din’t read them all) who cares if it’s real or not thats not the point… and wrighters are a one of a kind breed

so dont think a shootgun is going to stop me and if u dont get the wrighters the your probably one of those ppl who licks buchs ass and wants to put the berlin wall back up and keep all those hardworking mexicans out

gazza January 8, 2007 1:52 AM

alot of you dont think graffiti artists “vandals” have the right to bomb “paint” the cities or the trains well who gave the government the right to build theese cities or rail systems.
so what your basicly saying is its alright for governments to steal and destroy billions of land for junk buildings that will be torn down 20 years later .But people who add a bit of color to theese walls (wich does not affect you in any way what so ever because if the government diddnt take the money out of your tax to clean that up they would take the money out for something els they always will) should be shot ????? look at it who are the real criminals a vandal myself i have a thing i go by ill never hit up on a house that belongs to some one, or a car in other words i wont touch personal property but if its the government/council property then its not really for any one but the council or government to complain about and therese many like me ……And arbitrary your argument goin on about how some one spells something is stupid you still got the point he was trying to make but just so you could look better you commented on the spelling instead. how can you justify shooting someone for a bit of paint on a wall look up the story of “jonathan lim” aka Tie then tell me that was fair. and all theese people that blame graffiti artists for broken windows or actual damage to land scapes and try to punish them for it are idiots because if thats the way it is then we should close all gun stores because people shoot people we should close any store that sells knives including kitchen stores as its a kitchen knife that is used in a stabbing most of the time –to bring in curfues for teens as a way to stop graffiti and gang violence is beyond wrong alot of graffiti artists are over the age of 18 or 21 people over that age that start and participate in the fights just as much so how can you see the commensence in stopping young teens from buying inks and paint wich they will harm no one with but all they would need to say in a kitchen appliance store is im buying a knife for my mother and there ya go another kid with a knife throwing his a other peoples lifes away its a pure example of how the government would rather us kill each other then damage our property. one last thing to arbitrary how the hell can you say it would be funny for some one to kill or badly injure some els but painting a wall is all bad and shit in my eyes your more of a danger to our streets then vandals or even people who steel to get by atleast they have the reason of its that way of life or no life your a pathetic peice of crap …….graffiti will never die

veinoner April 5, 2007 1:08 PM

i agree with what gazza said graffiti today people relate it to a gang problem… so if you write graffiti you are a gang member you are the scum of the earth, a low life… what people dont realize is that graffiti is not gang related in some cases, sure it is true that gangs use it to mark their territories but the way they do that type of graffiti is a lot different of what some kids do today.. particularly my self i thank graffiti because it made me create this sense of neatness, design, it show me to respect others to get respect back.. what people dont see is the way graffiti could help some one, all they see is that vandals destroy cities, damage properties, and all of that cost the cities millions to clean which is mostly crap.. for example my buddy got arrested for throwing a tag in an electric box, he had to pay a ticket worth 100 dollars to get the tag cleaned up while i could go to a store buy a 99 cents spray can and pain over it, and they will be still be enough paint to paint over other tags.. i think that is mostly crap that the government is trying to make graffiti a big problem and what they do it encourages kids to do graffiti because they want to feel like outlaws they want to be down, they want to show their peers that they are bad because they write illegal graffiti… but is not the graffiti writers fault its both the government and graffiti writers what people should focus is a way they got gather all of these graffiti writers and help them make a change in a community one of my friends its graffiti writer named exials he is part of this group called the hip pop ministry it focuses on showing kids the Christian religion and they get all these graffiti writers legal walls where they could make some artistic pieces.. but until that happens graffiti will be part o us for years

anonymous May 8, 2007 9:18 PM

I Can say right now thats highly impossible as someone who protects USAF Air Craft theres no way to get to them and to have enough time to tag it.

zack May 25, 2007 8:13 AM

graffiti art today is all depending on who carries it out. to some its a gang to others its just showing our art and im sure all of you here will agree with that.

even if it is a hoax or if its just a random plane hes still letting his voice be heard.

sadly i disrespect him posting all this over the making his oen gaming consol which is just lame. somones begging for attention.

hes lost most respect from me basically because his art hasnt become just for his own pleasure anymore but to make money.

thats lost the real meaning of our art.

okura November 27, 2009 9:18 PM

There is a FAKE Air Force One out there, anyone remember the movie Air Force One with Harrison Ford? They used China Air 747 that was in the bone yard and painted it to resemble Air Force One. If the tag took place, most likely to that aircraft because its in the bone yard and probably in a non-fly status now.

For aircraft in the Air Force inventory, you dont get any higher security than you do with the presidential aircraft. the security surrounding the base, the hanger, and the aircraft would have long since have secured these guys. This most likely took place at the bone yard in nevada or somewhere where the “replica” for the movie sits.

ozfraud December 14, 2009 7:17 PM

Actually, it has been done. Illegally. I doubt the public knows about it but it was done by someone that goes by the name of “Korean jungle bunny”.

This was a while back. I want to say late 90’s. If someone can look it up, it’d be great.

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