Special security features, like precision temperature control, armed guards, and 25-ton nuclear blast doors, are part of everyday operations for our nation’s most secure locations. Trying to get into (or out of) these modern-day fortresses without permission would require the prowess and high tech tools of James Bond, Jason Bourne, and Ethan Hunt combined (cue Mission Impossible theme).
10. CIA Headquarters (Virginia)
In addition to being out-of-the-way, CIA headquarters is only accessible with proper credentials, by appointment, and can only be approached by an authorized vehicle via a private road. Good to know if you do visit: They have a Starbucks. This is a nice perk for employees who can’t unwind by looking out a window (most offices don’t have them) or playing Candy Crush on their cell phones (not allowed in the building).
9. The Pentagon (Washington, D.C.)
Home to the US Department of Defense, this five-story building is huge (6,500,000 sq ft), extremely secure, and provides office space for more than 23,000 employees, both civilian and military. A month after the September 11, 2001 attack on the Pentagon (which caused significant damage to the western segment of the building), a renovation known as The Phoenix Project was commissioned. The renovation included safety upgrades as well as moving the Defense Department’s command centers to the basement.
8. ADX Florence Prison (Colorado)
Home to the baddest of the bad, including Unabomber Ted Kaczynski and “shoe bomber” Richard Reid, this super-max prison is nicknamed the “Alcatraz of the Rockies.” Inmates are kept in solitary confinement twenty-three hours a day. Security features include motion-detecting laser beams, pressure pads, loads of cameras, and attack dogs.
7. Iron Mountain (Pennsylvania)
What was once a limestone mine is now a 1.7 million-square-foot storage locker that contains anything from master recordings and original film reels of famous songs and movies to Thomas Edison’s patent for the light bulb. Bill Gates, for instance, stores his photography collection in one of Iron Mountain’s climate-controlled, underground caves.
6. The White House (Washington, D.C.)
The most visible permanent White House security measure has always been the perimeter fence—the most recent iteration of which is thirteen feet tall, with anti-climb features and unspecified “intrusion detection technology … designed to mitigate current and future security threats.” But security at the “People’s House” goes beyond fencing: Some or all of the glazing is backstopped with bulletproof glass, the White House grounds are honeycombed with a system of underground tunnels and bunkers (which included, at least at one time, a trap door underneath the Resolute Desk in the Oval Office for quick getaways), and the entire compound enjoys the protection of its own anti-aircraft missile battery.
5. Air Force One (Wherever it wants)
Air Force One is not technically a building, but it is the world’s most secure movable location. It made our list because it can refuel in flight, fly through irradiated zones, jam radar, and fire flares to throw heat-seeking missiles off course. The rest of the safety features on board this aircraft are classified.
4. Area 51 (Nevada)
As they say on the X-Files, the “truth is out there.” The truth about Area 51: it’s a detachment of Edwards Air Force base, is protected by a no-fly zone and is patrolled regularly by low-flying black helicopters. Otherwise, what goes on there is open to speculation. Conspiracy theories persist that the government hides aliens there. More likely—it’s a testing ground for weapons and experimental aircraft. But don’t fly your drone near Area 51 to sneak a peek, the government issued a ban on it in 2016.
3. Federal Reserve Bank (New York)
You’ll have to go underground—80 feet below street level to be exact—to access the main vault of the Federal Reserve Bank. This is assuming that you can get past the expertly trained marksman guarding the perimeter. The Federal Reserve is reported to store twenty-five percent of the world’s gold.
2. Cheyenne Mountain (Colorado)
Cheyenne Mountain references appear in films such as Terminator, Dr. Strangelove, War Games, and the TV series Star Gate. This nuclear bunker is on the Colorado Springs Air Force Base and houses partial operations for the North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD). Other tenants include U.S. Strategic Command, Air Force Space Command, the Defense Intelligence Agency, the National Security Agency, and the Missile Defense Agency. Originally intended to protect us from the Russians during the Cold War era, it is fortified with 25-ton blast doors.
1. U.S. Bullion Depository (Kentucky)
Located at the U.S. Army Base at Fort Knox Kentucky, the United States Bullion Depository vault contains a large supply of gold. Not even Congress is allowed to access or open the vaults at Fort Knox. This lack of transparency has led some to speculate that there might not be any gold in Ft Knox. Several important historical documents such as the Declaration of Independence and the Magna Carta were temporarily stored at Fort Knox, as well as stranger things like massive amounts of opium and morphine during the Cold War. The roof is bombproof, the doors are drill-, torch-, and explosive-proof, and the building itself is entirely constructed of concrete-lined, steel-reinforced granite.
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