Friday, September 14, 2012

Cabin Assignments for Leaders at the G8 Summit

When I first heard that the 2012 G8 Summit had been moved to Camp David, I immediately wondered about the cabin assignments. I was disappointed to hear National Security Adviser Tom Donilon joke that the cabin allocation system was classified.

While I'm sure it was not actually classified, the information was not made public at the time. I became determined to find this out for myself (and for my blog readers, of course). Three months later, I can finally write this blog post.

United States: President Barack Obama - Aspen Lodge

United Kingdom: Prime Minister David Cameron - Maple Cabin

Daily Telegraph deputy political editor James Kirkup reported this cabin assignment via Twitter

Russia: Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev - Dogwood Cabin

When President Vladimir Putin met with President George W. Bush at Camp David in 2003, he stayed in the Dogwood Cabin. I figured it was a safe diplomatic move to assign Russia the same cabin for the G8 Summit. I found out my assumption was correct when I saw that  Prime Minister Medvedev posted a photo of himself on Instagram standing in front of his Dogwood Cabin.

France: President François Hollande - Birch Cabin

The day before the G8 Summit began, I received a blog visitor from France via the Google search terms "Camp David cabins G8" and "Camp David Birch".  I immediately began to look for confirmation online that President Hollande had been assigned to Birch cabin. A few days later, several more visitors from France arrived by searching for Birch cabin. Still, I could not find any confirmation of this in any news story.

Shortly after I tweeted that I was looking for confirmation that President Hollande stayed in Birch cabin, I received an email from another Françoise in France with a link to a story in Le Figaro. Because the article was written in French, it had never popped up in my Google News searches.

A few days later, the website for Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper posted some photos of Harper meeting with Hollande in Birch cabin.

Canada: Prime Minister Stephen Harper - Rosebud Cabin

When I came across this story by Canadian Press reporter Lee-Anne Goodman, I was disappointed there was no mention of the cabin he stayed in. So, I emailed Lee-Anne and asked her if she knew. She replied that Harper had stayed in the Rosebud cabin and that she had already reported it in another story. Somehow, I missed that one out of the dozens of Google News email alerts that were piling up in my inbox...

Germany: Chancellor Angela Merkel - Red Oak Cabin

My blog received a number of visitors from Germany searching for information on the Red Oak cabin, but it was a while before I finally came across this story in the German version of the Financial Times confirming that Chancellor Merkel stayed there. 

European Union: President Herman Van Rompuy; Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso - Hickory Cabin 

Perhaps the tweet below from BBC News political editor Nick Robinson best illustrates the concern the White House must have had when trying to determine the cabin assignments for the G8 Leaders.

The cabin assignment for the EU leaders was reported in the German Financial Times story

Italy: Prime Minister Mario Monti - Southern Pine Cabin

Japan: Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda - Hawthorn Cabin

A week after the conclusion of the G8 Summit, I found myself at a dead end. I had only two more leaders to go and could not find the cabin information anywhere on the internet. By then, it was "yesterday's news" and I knew that no additional stories would be written. I decided to go to the source and submit a request under the Freedom of Information Act.

I had never written an FOIA request before and didn't even know for sure if this was something that would fall under that category. I went to the State Department website and found the page where you can submit a request online. I asked for the name of the cabins assigned to PM Monti and PM Noda during the summit.

And then I waited. And waited. And then about three months later, I received the following response:

The State Department replied that they were unable to find any documents responsive to my request. However, they contacted the Visit Officer for the 2012 G8 Summit who provided the information that Prime Minister Noda was assigned to the Hawthorn cabin and Prime Minister Monti was assigned to the Southern Pine cabin.

So now you know.


  1. I'm sure they enjoyed my interior design of the cabins with new furniture and paintings by Most Kunstler and Tom Freeman! Quite a stark difference from living in Europe and Asia, to visit and enjoy Camp David.