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The flawed and Secretive Service

The flawed and Secretive Service

Problems with the Secret Service seem deep and systemic.

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.]


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What on earth is going on?

The same thing as with the entire executive branch.

    Ragspierre in reply to Valerie. | October 1, 2014 at 9:41 am

    I’m afraid it is much more pervasive than that, both on the Federal and lower governmental levels.

    Civil service was once a good idea, designed to counter the patronage system that had dominated party politics for decades in the U.S.

    But it, like a lot of things, has mutated into its own form of nightmare. Currently, on both the state and federal levels of government, there are employees who literally cannot be fired in any kind of practical terms. And they know it, and those around them know it, too.

    But that is ONE thing. There are others, not unrelated. We simply do not have a meritocracy any more even in those agencies we used to consider examples of super-competence, like the Secret Service. There are “diversity hires” who simply are not up to the job. Consider the female SS agent the Green Room intruder “overpowered”. I don’t suggest it was her femaleness at fault, but her lack of preparedness for the job.

    Lots of other factors are at play, but they globally come down to this…people in government are not subject to the incentives and punishments that they were not that long ago, and they all know it. Nobody…except whistle-blowers…is at risk in this Washington, and the same is true in many state and local governments. This is part and parcel of the whole problem with the “political class”. They can be grossly incompetent, wasteful, corrupt, and arrogant, and nobody will bring them to task. Partly because, in practical terms, nobody CAN.

      Valerie in reply to Ragspierre. | October 1, 2014 at 11:16 am

      We are six years into an administration where the President regularly skips his security briefings, and refuses to transact his business in writing. The Attorney General thinks it is an acceptable excuse that he did not read his correspondence. The DOJ waives the laws of the United States in order to make the case for stricter gun laws, and essentially ships weapons to Mexican cartels, with the result that hundreds of Mexicans are killed with those weapons. The State Department thinks that it can blame a trailer for a proposed movie for a terrorist attack on a 9/11 anniversary. The Secretary of State never did attend security briefings when he was in the Senate.

      The lights aren’t on. Nobody is home. The residue of smart Democrats that might have been in this administration at its beginning are gone.

        Benson II in reply to Valerie. | October 1, 2014 at 11:56 am

        Seeing what the Democrat party has become I find it hard to think there were any smart Democrats to begin with and then Obama of course picked the most unethical ideologues to head departments. You can also look at the antics of the State department under Clinton to see the same kind of behavior. From the top down competence to do the job isn’t even on the list of requirements.

          Not A Member of Any Organized Political in reply to Benson II. | October 2, 2014 at 9:21 am

          Ya think he selected his “personal” old cronies he knew would look the other way when he was making personal calls and texting -on his unauthorized Blackberry phone and such?

      TrooperJohnSmith in reply to Ragspierre. | October 1, 2014 at 11:32 am

      Add to that the fact that government workers can unionize, and one wonders why they even need civil service protection.

      Perhaps they should have a choice: civil service OR unionization. Not both.

      When I look at the whole civil service system, I remember the federal employees who have been caught looking at porn hundreds of hours at work or missing over 200-days a year and are still employed. In private business, doing either of those things on a micro-scale will get you fired. No “resignation” with pension or reprimand. You will be shown the door, immediately. “Here’s a copy paper box. Get your stuff. Leave.”

      We’re becoming Italy and Greece in this respect.

      mariner in reply to Ragspierre. | October 2, 2014 at 2:00 am

      Civil Service was never a good idea, and it’s a blatant violation of the separation of powers.

      Just as the remedy for bad speech is good speech, and the remedy for bad people with firearms is good people with firearms, the remedy for crooked administrations is to vote them out and elect better ones.

      The Civil Service system did nothing to reduce incompetence and dishonesty; it simply took away the only way voters had of cleaning the stables.

I found it interesting that both of the “intruders” were Hispanic. What are the odds of that?

I believe these “intrusions” are actually red herrings…events designed to appear that the pResident is threatened and engender sympathy for him. Note that he was not home either time (though with his vacation schedule, that’s probably not unusual), nor has anyone…ANYONE faced any consequences for these derelictions of duty.

We’re being had.

    sjf_control in reply to creeper. | October 1, 2014 at 9:26 am

    Or… They could be test runs.

      Not A Member of Any Organized Political in reply to sjf_control. | October 2, 2014 at 9:19 am

      Hey Creeper…….from what I said below…

      “I think there is something fishy about this whole “Omar the White House Fence Jumper”…like in 100% fishy.

      It is a given that this is a White House Distraction.

      But “Omar the White House Fence Jumper” strikes me as the way a jilted lover would act……stalking their former lover…….

      Just saying……”

    Tex Detroit in reply to creeper. | October 1, 2014 at 9:44 am

    Yes. This is but one more step on the road toward mandatory abortions, forced gay marriage, and the Black Panthers confiscating the guns of all Real Americans so that Obummer can raise the marginal income tax rate on higher earners by 2.8%.

pablo panadero | October 1, 2014 at 9:26 am

Remember when ROmney said that he liked firing people? The only person Obama has fired was a general who insulted him in an interview. No one gets canned for poor performance, just promoted. Since that is the way Obama got to the position he is at, he honestly thinks this is the way to run things.

Progressive Corruption aka Political Correctness.

So let me see if I understand the situation. Obama has effectively undermined and decapitated the group tasked with keeping him alive, as a result there are a number of close calls. In my world that is called evolution in action. Maybe the country will get lucky and the next one will actually be sucessful. Honestly I don’t see the problem here.

    Ragspierre in reply to rorschach256. | October 1, 2014 at 9:46 am

    One of the worst things I can imagine for this country is the assassination of Pres. ScamWOW. He NEVER should have the mantle of “martyr” to protect his terrible time in office from the review it deserves.

    His race has protected him from rightful critiques during his tenure; his death should NEVER add to that.

      Benson II in reply to Ragspierre. | October 1, 2014 at 12:02 pm

      Boy!! do I agree with that. We don’t need a stinkin martyr. A criminal ex-president forever ridiculed and set as an example to Americans about how wrong they were is much better. Yes I know there are some who will still bow down to him after he’s gone but the lesson has become pretty clear to many they were mistaken.

      nordic_prince in reply to Ragspierre. | October 1, 2014 at 1:40 pm

      God forbid a thousand times!! He’s already got a messianic complex as it is ~

looks like the SS put the head of HR in charge of the infantry … more equal opportunity failures …

BS detected! The White House ushers have the authority to order the Secret Service to silence the crash box? Not buying it! If ushers complained that the crash boxes were too noisy makes one wonder just how many times that alarm went off and if it’s sounding on a regular basis then why haven’t we heard of those security breaches?

    Not A Member of Any Organized Political in reply to MarkS. | October 2, 2014 at 9:16 am

    I think there is something fishy about this whole “Omar the White House Fence Jumper”…like in 100% fishy.

    It is a given that this is a White House Distraction.

    But “Omar the White House Fence Jumper” strikes me as the way a jilted lover would act……stalking their former lover…….

    Just saying……

“A security contractor with a gun and three 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.”

“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.”

“Extensive screening is supposed to keep people with weapons or criminal histories out of arm’s reach of the president. But it appears that this man, possessing a gun, came within inches of the president after undergoing no such screening.”

We need to look into the insidiousness of Obummer deliberately weakening the Secret Service so that an illegal Hispanic Muslim (and probably gay) could break into the WH at a time he and his family were gone so that he could fail at killing him. Also, Prayer rugs!!!

    Valerie in reply to Tex Detroit. | October 1, 2014 at 11:20 am

    Still needs work.

      Tex Detroit in reply to Valerie. | October 1, 2014 at 11:33 am

      Proper Tealibanese is always a tricky target to hit. The official Tea Party Ministry of Truth talking points change hourly.

    Ragspierre in reply to Tex Detroit. | October 1, 2014 at 1:39 pm

    This is Tex/Gus/Kevin/other suck-puppet doing his “smear monkey poo on the thread” mode.

    Basically, just a pack of psychotic-sourced straw men from the hate-twisted fringe of the moonbattery.

    Always just pathetic, but kind of useful for your portfolio of stuff to show your friends and neighbors during the run-up to election day!

The “B” team is guarding the POTUS. Couldn’t have the best had to have a politically correct and diverse group.

I was clued into the issues here when those shoes were thrown at George W. Bush. Thank goodness they were only shoes.