The State Of The Secret Service, Ctd


It turns out White House fence-jumper Omar Gonzalez made it far past the mansion’s front door. Adam Baumgartner created the above animated GIF of Gonzalez’s route based on the following description from Carol Leonnig:

After barreling past the guard immediately inside the door, Gonzalez, who was carrying a knife, dashed past the stairway leading a half-flight up to the first family’s living quarters. He then ran into the 80-foot-long East Room, an ornate space often used for receptions or presidential addresses. Gonzalez was tackled by a counter-assault agent at the far southern end of the East Room. The intruder reached the doorway to the Green Room, a parlor overlooking the South Lawn with artwork and antique furniture, according to three people familiar with the incident.

According to Leonnig, an alarm box meant to alert the Secret Service to intruders had been “muted” at the request of the White House usher staff.  Joe Coscarelli adds:

That wasn’t the only failure. Gonzalez seems to have made it past the following lines of defense, according to the Post:

1. “a plainclothes surveillance team … on duty that night outside the fence, meant to spot jumpers and give early warning”
2. “an officer in a guard booth on the North Lawn”
3. attack dogs, which were never released
4. a “specialized” SWAT team
5. the front-door guard

Amy Davidson notes, “The head of the Secret Service, Julia Pierson, will testify before Congress on Tuesday, and will be asked to account for this failure; she should be thankful that she’s not explaining a far worse one”:

She and others in the White House should also be asked why there wasn’t a straightforward account of the intrusion. The story was that, although Gonzalez wasn’t stopped when he climbed over the fence, or by the officers who were supposed to tackle him on the lawn, or by the dogs that were supposed to be released, or by the door that was supposed to be locked, he “was physically apprehended after entering the White House North Portico doors,” as the Secret Service said, in a statement at the time. This was taken to mean that he was pounced on the moment his toes touched the White House floor, and, as the Times noted on Monday, “Secret Service officials said nothing in their public comments after the incident to suggest otherwise.”

House Oversight Committee members Jason Chaffetz and Elijah Cummings are already murmuring about changes in leadership. It will be interesting to see how the Pierson’s testimony, which is in progress, will play out. Ed Krayewski listened in:

[W]hile the Secret Service’s recent history of mishaps was brought up throughout the hearing, several members of Congress, both Democrat and Republican, appeared more interested in demanding the Secret Service use more force in situations like last week’s fence jumper. This even though the president and his family weren’t at the White House that day, something the Secret Service knew when responding but Gonzales probably didn’t.

Josh Marshall thinks excessive force would be a mistake:

The White House lawn is pretty big. And the place is crawling with Secret Service. It should be possible to apprehend someone on the lawn. It should definitely be possible to incapacitate and stop them at the building perimeter or just inside it. If the intruder is armed, obviously the entire calculus changes. But until you know that or can reasonably assume they shouldn’t be just shooting to kill every time someone hops the fence.