On September 19 the Secret Service managed to stop an intruder with a knife who had entered the White House, but why did it take so long for the fuller (and even more alarming) story to emerge?:
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.
That wasn’t the only error made, either, not by a longshot. There were multiple slip-ups of basic protocol.
What on earth is going on?
Julia Pierson is the current head of the agency, appointed in March of 2013 by President Obama after the agency’s prostitution scandal, in order to improve the agency’s image. Pierson is a 30-year Secret Service veteran with extensive credentials, including four years spent on George H.W. Bush’s protective detail, but many criticized her at the time of her appointment because the bulk of her career had been spent in administration. At any rate, she doesn’t seem to have been effective in reversing the agency’s downward slide in terms of performance. Nor will this recent incident enhance its image one iota.
In addition, Mr. Chaffetz said a system designed to alert agents that a breach of security was in progress apparently did not work as intended, allowing Mr. Gonzalez to surprise the officer at the door. Mr. Chaffetz said that he was told the “crash box” had been silenced or muted at the request of White House ushers, who had complained the boxes were too noisy.
And then there’s the coverup:
In its initial briefings, the Secret Service did not inform the Department of Homeland Security, which oversees the agency, that the intruder had made it so far inside the White House, according to an official familiar with the conversations…
White House officials also did nothing in the last week to correct the impression that Mr. Gonzalez had been stopped just inside the front door of the building. Josh Earnest, the White House press secretary, was asked repeatedly about the incident in the days after it happened and did not disclose the extent of the breach.
One can understand the motivation for not publicly disclosing how far this went, without necessarily agreeing with the decision to keep it quiet.
After all, it could be argued that revealing the extent of the failure could further compromise security by letting the entire world know how incompetent the Secret Service has become, and how easy it was to get that far inside the White House. But not telling the DHS? That seems unconscionable, if true.
Pierson has just made a statement to the effect that the incident was unacceptable and will never happen again. It was much worse than unacceptable, however. And of course it won’t happen again, at least not exactly that way.
But something similarly bad may happen again, or even worse, because these problems with the Secret Service seem deep and systemic.
This was hardly the first recent breach of a serious nature. In 2011, shots were fired that penetrated the president’s residence, and they weren’t responded to properly or in a timely fashion, or even detected quickly enough. The investigation of that incident was bungled as well.
Here’s more on the very recent incursion and how the coverup was uncovered. To learn the bigger story required whistleblowers:
The more detailed account of this month’s security breach comes from people who provided information about the incident to The Post and whistleblowers who contacted Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah), chairman of the oversight panel’s subcommittee on national security…
And those crash boxes that were turned off? They are very important aspects of the system rather than tangential ones:
The alarm boxes, which officers call “crash boxes,” are key pieces of the agency’s first-alert system, according to former agents and officials. If officers spot an intruder, they are trained to hit the large red button on the nearest box — sending an alert to every post on the complex about the location of an incursion and piping sound from that location to other boxes around the property.
On whose order were these turned off? And will that person be fired?
The article goes on to say the boxes were making the extra noise because they were malfunctioning. So why couldn’t they be fixed instead of turned off? What actually happened is akin to disabling a smoke alarm because it’s beeping to let you know the battery’s dying. Turning an alarm off is not a solution—but hey, we can’t expect the Secret Service to realize that, can we?
[Featured Image Source: AP Video]
[Neo-neocon is a writer with degrees in law and family therapy, who blogs at neo-neocon.]DONATE
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