Some TV wit said it best, with sardonic irony: “Can’t the president or his wife just lock the front door?”
He was, of course, referring to the security breach two weeks ago when an intruder jumped the fence around the White House, ran 70 yards across the lawn and managed to get inside one of the doors.
That was the first version we heard.
Later, we learned the interloper had run through a room or two and down a hall before he was tackled right near the Green Room by an off-duty security agent.
It sounds like something out of an old Keystone Cops comedy. Except this one’s not funny. Not at all. It’s inexcusable. People have to wait in security lines to get on an airplane and yet some unstable trespasser can run willy-nilly through an unlocked door of the White House.
The man was a veteran reportedly suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder. He was carrying a knife in his pocket. In his parked car were found hundreds of rounds of ammo, two hatchets and a machete.
What’s worse is that, thanks to a detailed report in the Washington Post, we recently found out another madman’s bullet-slugs had hit the White House three years ago, and it wasn’t discovered until four days later when a housekeeper noticed the pock-marked damage, including a slightly fractured window.
After the sounds of firing, some Secret Service agents rushed to respond but were told to “stand down” by their on-duty supervisor, who said he thought they were the sounds of a backfiring construction vehicle. Later, that story was changed – that yes, gunshots had been fired, but it was, they said, because of a gang shooting beyond the fence near the White House.
After the bullet damage was reported, the Secret Service more or less ignored the alarming report. Those officers who did believe the slugs had hit the White House, according to the Post, were either ignored or fearful of consequences for contradicting their superiors.
The First Family was not told about the bullet damage until much later.
The culprit – an Obama-hater from Idaho – was arrested, convicted and sentenced to 25 years in prison.
What’s even more alarming is another recent report by a whistleblower. On Sept. 19, a private security contractor (with a concealed gun and three prior convictions for assault and battery, it was learned later) was allowed to get into an elevator with President Obama while he was visiting the Centers for Disease Control in Atlanta.
We have to wonder what other security breaches have been concealed by the Secret Service.
Director Julia Pierson resigned Oct. 1. She had no choice. In her abysmal performance before a Sept. 30 congressional committee, it was glaringly obvious she had mishandled all of those security crises, that she hadn’t had a clue as to what had been going wrong and/or that she had been stonewalling and covering up.
Obama had appointed her to clean up the “frat-house” behavior of some agents who cavorted with prostitutes in Colombia and other embarrassing behaviors, such as drinking bouts. Pierson claimed to have solved those problems by establishing an “Office of Professional Integrity.” Sounds like a bureaucratic Band-Aid.
As congressional members peppered Pierson with questions, she responded in an almost ho-hum fashion, with no sense of urgency or responsibility. She used so many gobbledygook phrases that at times it seemed as if she’d choke on the meaningless verbiage. Her listless attitude was outrageous.
In our history, four presidents have been assassinated: Lincoln, Garfield, McKinley and Kennedy. There have been 16 assassination attempts or foiled assassination plots in recent times – against Nixon, Ford (a bystander deflected the firing gun), Carter, Reagan (who came close to death), both Bushes, Clinton and Obama.
An attack against a president or the White House is an attack against all of us. After so many murderous rampages in recent years, we are scarily aware of the madmen and terrorists among us, aware of what can happen anywhere, anytime. After these recent reports of lax to nonexistent security by the Secret Service, it’s frightening to think what could happen to the president and his family or to future presidents and their families.
If one reads between the lines of what Pierson told (or didn’t tell) the committee, it’s instantly apparent there is something out of whack in the Secret Service. The new interim director must investigate the entire organization, agent by agent, and then correct the slack behavior and lack of accountability. There seems to be a near unanimity in the U.S. Congress for revamping and strengthening the Secret Service. Now, let’s hope something quick and effective gets accomplished. Before it’s too late.