BRUSSELS — It may not have been the same as having his telephone calls tapped by the National Security Agency, but President Barack Obama got a taste Wednesday of what it is like to have his privacy violated.
The president’s morning workout in the gym at the Warsaw Marriott Hotel was captured on video, evidently by a fellow guest, and the images soon found their way onto the Internet. An edited 1 1/2-minute video showed the president in a dark tracksuit wearing earphones as he lifted weights, did squats and rode a stationary bicycle, occasionally while grimacing. He was also caught yawning.
If the puffed cheeks and chicken-flapping arms of an intense workout looked a little less presidential than the scripted appearances normally arranged by the White House, the video was not actually a security breach, the Secret Service said. However unflattering the images might have been, the service defines its mission as guarding a president against physical threats, not embarrassment.
All of the hotel’s guests had gone through a security screening just to enter the building, so there was no need to keep other patrons out of the gym. Agents were close by while Obama exercised and apparently noticed the camera but made no move to stop the recording.
“Hotel guests were not asked to leave the gym during this off-the-record movement, nor were they asked to refrain from taking pictures,” said Ed Donovan, a Secret Service spokesman. “This is no different if the president visited a restaurant off the record and other diners took pictures of him.”
Obama woke up in Warsaw for the second day of his four-day European trip before flying to Brussels for dinner with other world leaders. Against the backdrop of the visit is continuing anger in Europe over reports of NSA eavesdropping, including on the telephone of Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany, who was at dinner in Brussels on Wednesday night.
Obama has said he has ordered a halt to NSA surveillance of allied leaders like Merkel, but a German prosecutor Wednesday opened an investigation into the spying on her phone calls.
It was unclear how the video was taken, but at one point, a person’s cheek appears in a position that suggests a fellow exerciser who was facing away from the president was holding a smartphone aimed over the shoulder.