King Barack the First's bodyguards nap again....
The story emerging from the White House on the sudden intrusion of Omar Gonzalez reads like a hackneyed cable television series plot. On September 19 a guy, armed with a knife, jumps the fence, makes a 70-yard bum-rush across the apparently unguarded north lawn to the front door. It is unlocked. The security alarm is turned off--at the request of, get this--the usher's office. The intruder literally bowls over a female agent and makes it to the East Room and then passes the foot of the stairway leading up to the First Couple's bedroom. Finally, a burly male agent--in the White House despite having been off-duty--tackles him.
More telling detail comes from Commentary Blog (subs. req.):
And they couldn’t shoot the guy or anything because he was “unarmed”–except it turned out he had a knife on him, and 800 rounds of ammo, a machete, and two hatchets in his car, parked nearby. And he had been stopped on August 25 at the White House with a hatchet in his waistband. And just before he jumped the fence three weeks later, two Secret Service officers recognized him from that August encounter but did nothing about it. And he had been pulled over in July in Virginia, where cops found various weapons in his car, and a map with the White House circled–an incident duly reported to both the ATF and the Secret Service.
In keeping with the ethos of the Obama administration, the Secret Service lied about the incident, claiming the intruder had been stopped just inside the White House door–until “whistleblowers” revealed the truth.
On "The O'Reilly Factor" Karl Rove disclosed that there are more than the five White House security layers that have been revealed to the public.
A WSJ editorial (subs. req.) adds yet more:
Two weeks ago Omar Gonzales eluded the Secret Service's perimeter cameras and a plainclothes surveillance detail, hopped the fence, and crossed 70 yards to the mansion before a rapid response team was deployed. He then entered without tripping an alarm or encountering a deadbolt on either the outer storm door or the interior ornamental historic door. Mr. Gonzales overpowered a female guard in the foyer and roamed through the ground floor before being tackled, eventually, to the East Room floor.
Had Mr. Gonzales hung a left and ran up a flight of stairs, he might have penetrated President Obama's private living quarters. He was armed with a serrated Spyderco knife though he could have easily been carrying a small arsenal or wearing a suicide vest. The only other lucky break the service (and the nation) caught was that Mr. Obama and his daughters had departed via helicopter only moments before....
These details leaked over the weekend. The Secret Service originally blamed the inadequacy of the 49-year-old fence and added in a statement that Mr. Gonzalez "was physically apprehended after entering the White House North Portico doors." This is technically true in the sense that the British Redcoats who captured the White House in 1814, ransacked the silver and set the building on fire also came in through doors.
There have been, the WSJ editors note, 16 fence-jumping breaches of White House security in the past five years. This stuff has happened despite a doubling in real terms, to $1.7 billion, of the Secret Service budget since 1998.
What? OMG. In the president's principal residence, untouched, capable of taking hostile action. It seems that the Secret Service prided itself on exercising "tremendous restraint" in carrying out its security tasks. While lethal force may lawfully be used against an apparently unarmed intruder on White House grounds--let alone, inside the mansion--it is a matter of agent discretion. Such implies in-depth training, plus knowledge that superiors have their back. If, as with this administration, "optics" is always in the forefront, agents may feel unduly constrained in moments like this. With the First Family outside the residence the decision not to use lethal force was defensible. Which brings up another question? Have those in Secret Service management who express concern about using lethal force--partly due to possible ricochet hazards to staff & tourists--heard of the taser?
The current chief, Julia Pierson, was installed in 2013 after a sex scandal involving agents on overseas duty; she was, writes WaPo pundit Dana Milbank, brought in to change the "frat-house" culture after the Colombia sexcapades. We learned last night on "The Kelly File" that Pierson since being appointed has briefed the president only once, despite serial security lapses.
This is the latest in a series of security breaches that showed security laxity:
On November 11, 2011 seven shots were fired into the White House, causing $100,000 damage; Secret Service supervisors ignored reports of shots fired coming from agents on the ground. Initially thought to have been car backfires, a later investigation showed that it took four days to discover a bullet mark on a window facing the south lawn; worse, the discovery was made by a housekeeper who found broken glass, not security personnel. The "first daughters" were in residence at the time.
On November 24, 2009 a party-crashing couple made it into a White House reception and greeted the president & first lady.
And in a separate recent incident, on September 16, a security contractor took an elevator ride with the president during The One's visit to the Center for Disease Control in Atlanta. The man was armed with a gun and had three felony convictions.
Compare this dismal, Swiss-cheese security record with the airtight presidential security imposed when the president went to a private cocktail party in New York City, during his UN General Assembly trip.
Bottom Line. Security lapses can never be eliminated. But they can be minimized, and agents must upon indication of a breach act decisively--with knowledge that their superiors will back good faith, competent judgments made, even if mistaken.
Clearly, the Secret Service shows signs of severe corporate culture breakdown. A fish, in the mafia saying, rots from the head down. Time to cashier top management, and institute a top-to-bottom review of security procedures.
Letter from the Capitol, LFTC, Homeland Security, Conservative Politics