The Secret Service, like most law enforcement agencies, has a motto. Theirs is “Worthy of Trust and Confidence” but a series of incidents, both troubling and potentially tragic has blown truck-sized holes into the nation’s trust and confidence the agency is up to the job of protecting the President.
The White House is starting to look as secure as a damn McDonald’s lobby.
ITEM: An armed man who jumped the White House fence this month made it far deeper into the mansion than previously disclosed, overpowering a Secret Service agent inside the North Portico entrance and running through the ceremonial East Room before he was tackled, according to a member of Congress familiar with the details of the incident.
The man, Omar J. Gonzalez, who had a knife, was stopped as he tried to enter the Green Room, a parlor used for receptions and teas, said the congressman, Representative Jason Chaffetz of Utah, the Republican chairman of a subcommittee looking into the security breach. Earlier, Secret Service officials indicated that Mr. Gonzalez, 42, had only made it steps inside the North Portico after running through the door.
According to a law enforcement official briefed on the current investigation, uniformed Secret Service officers at the White House failed to follow several of the agency’s protocols. Although the protocols call for an officer to be standing outside the North Portico door, there was no officer there as Mr. Gonzalez made his way up the steps. The officer who was stationed inside the door failed to lock it after an alarm was sounded that someone had jumped over the fence, the official said.
“At all times there is supposed to be someone at the outside and the inside of the door,” the official said. “The intruder was running so fast that he gets right past the woman who didn’t lock the door. She tries to catch him, and eventually she and another officer tackle the man to the ground, but by that time he was pretty far in.”
ITEM: A security contractor with a gun and three prior convictions for assault and battery was allowed on an elevator with President Obama during a Sept. 16 trip to Atlanta, violating Secret Service protocols, according to three people familiar with the incident.
Obama was not told about the lapse in his security, these people said. The Secret Service director, Julia Pierson, asked a top agency manager to look into the matter but did not refer it to an investigative unit that was created to review violations of protocol and standards, according to two people familiar with the handling of the case who spoke on the condition of anonymity.
The incident, which took place when Obama visited the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to discuss the U.S. response to the Ebola crisis, rattled Secret Service agents assigned to the president’s protective detail.
The private contractor first aroused the agents’ concerns when he acted oddly and did not comply with their orders to stop using a cellphone camera to record the president in the elevator, according to the people familiar with the incident.
When the elevator opened, Obama left with most of his Secret Service detail. Some agents stayed behind to question the man and then used a national database check that turned up his criminal history.
ITEM: New details emerged recently in the Washington Post that the secret service mishandled the investigation after a man shot at the White House while Obama’s youngest daughter, Sasha, was home. According to the Post, at least seven bullets hit the building: one pierced a window on the second floor, another hit a nearby window frame and several more pinged the roof.
The president and first lady were not in the mansion at the time, but Sasha, and Michelle’s mother, Marian Robinson, were. Malia was reportedly expected to return at any moment.
An agent stationed upstairs apparently responded to the shooting, but was ordered to stand down by a supervisor who said no shots were fired. Secret service agents only realized the mansion had been hit four days later, when a housekeeper found broken glass on the floor.
The gunman, troubled 21-year-old Oscar Ortega-Hernandez, was eventually arrested and sentenced to 25 years in prison.
According to The Washington Post, “The response infuriated the president and the first lady, according to people with direct knowledge of their reaction. Michelle Obama has spoken publicly about fearing for her family’s safety since her husband became the nation’s first black president.”
“Her concerns are well founded — President Obama has faced three times as many threats as his predecessors, according to people briefed on the Secret Service’s threat assessment.”
It was one thing when upscale party crashers wormed their way into a 2009 state dinner at the White House and something else entirely when a phony sign language interpreter who was treated for schizophrenia slipped by the scrutiny of the Secret Service scrutiny to stand three feet away from President Obama during his remarks at Nelson Mandela’s eulogy. The recent cases of Secret Service agents removed from the president’s detail for drinking and cavorting with prostitutes is another black eye for the beleaguered agency.
It’s taken as an article of faith The Secret Service is always on point when it comes to protecting the president, his family and the White House. The image of the agents in the sunglasses, dark suits and earpieces is a constant when the president steps out in public and works the rope line.
Yet, it’s easy to wonder what would have happened if the recent unwelcome guests to breach the gates of the White House had sported the latest in suicide vest designer wear. Things could have turned out to been a double feature of White House Down and Olympus Has Fallen.
Regardless of who the president is it is an issue of national importance when their safety is imperiled and particularly when it is carelessness, sloppiness, inefficiency or incompetence that puts him in harm’s way. I don’t care if it is Johnson, Nixon, Ford, Carter, Reagan, Bush41, Clinton, Bush43, Obama or whomever is next to sit in the Oval Office. I may despise the next man or woman to become president, but I don’t want to see one killed either and certainly not because the Secret Service fell down on the job.
Nobody ever accused Utah Republican Jason Chaffetz who chairs a House sub-committee which questioned Pierson, of being a fan of Obama, but even he said, “I have deep concerns that the president is not as safe as we want and need him to be.”
I’m sure Michelle Obama would agree.
Director Pierson resigned Wednesday and that’s too bad. Obama should have fired her ass for trying to get his killed.