Yet another se­cu­rity lapse at the White House


The sharp­shoot­ers on the roof with their sniper scopes didn’t kill the in­truder rac­ing to­wards the White House. The han­dlers on the North Lawn didn’t un­leash the pow­er­ful, un­muz­zled dogs trained to take down any as­sailant. The armed agents, inside the grounds and out­side among the tourist throngs on Penn­syl­va­nia Av­enue, didn’t shoot. The White House doors weren’t locked. And the US Se­cret Ser­vice agent inside the im­pos­ing main White House en­trance was ap­par­ently so sur­prised when Omar J. Gon­za­lez burst in that he was able to just knock her aside.

No agent was sta­tioned at the stairs lead­ing to the first fam­ily’s pri­vate quarters when Gon­za­lez ran past, deep inside one of the world’s sup­pos­edly most se­cure build­ings. Fi­nally, an off-duty Se­cret Ser­vice of­fi­cer tack­led the in­truder, who had a knife in his pocket, in the East Room.

Ex­pla­na­tions and ex­cuses are now pour­ing forth from Ju­lia Pier­son, who heads the $1.8-bil­lion, 6,700-per­son Se­cret Ser­vice which, de­spite other mis­sions from track­ing coun­ter­feit­ers to guard­ing for- eign dig­ni­taries, has as its pri­mary pur­pose pro­tect­ing the Pres­i­dent of the United States.

An in­quiry con­tin­ues into how Omar Gon­za­lez, 42, made it into the White House. In­ves­ti­ga­tors are look­ing through an elab­o­rate closed-cir­cuit video sys­tem show­ing the en­tire in­ci­dent. Au­thor­i­ties said the Iraq war veteran had a knife in his pocket when he ran into the White House, where he was later sub­dued after a wild chase.

Nei­ther Pres­i­dent Barack Obama nor the first fam­ily were at home at the time of the in­ci­dent on Septem­ber 19.

Ju­lia Pier­son, the first fe­male di­rec­tor of the Se­cret Ser­vice, after a sub­se­quent con­gres­sional in­quiry un­cov­ered other se­cu­rity lapses and sub­mit­ted her res­ig­na­tion. Pier­son took over as di­rec­tor of the Se­cret Ser­vice in March 2013.

After her res­ig­na­tion, Home­land Se­cu­rity Di­rec­tor Jeh John­son an­nounced that his depart­ment would take over an in­ter­nal in­quiry of the Se­cret Ser­vice and ap­point a new panel to re­view se­cu­rity at the White House.

Joseph Clancy, a for­mer spe­cial agent in charge of the Pres­i­den­tial Pro­tec­tive Di­vi­sion of the Se­cret Ser­vice, will serve as in­terim di­rec­tor, John­son said.

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