Fortunately, White House crashers Michaele and Tareq Salahi were just out to have a good
time. The Virginia couple shocked and impressed
pundits by sneaking into President Obama's state dinner sans invitation, but the Secret Service isn't off the hook. Heads rolled at the
law enforcement agency this weekend, and the president has called for a full investigation into
the incident. The Secret Service issued an apology saying they were
"deeply embarassed" by the breach. What went wrong at the Secret Service?
- Lax Standards Since 2003 At the New York Daily News, Ronald Kessler
says the incident is a "disgrace." standards at the Secret Service have
been dangerously low since the agency was folded into the Department of
Homeland Security in 2003. "Management," he says, "has betrayed its
trust to a shocking degree."
Because of a lack of adequate funding, a management culture that
considers itself invincible, as well as spinelessness when it comes to
standing up to demands by those under protection - including the White
House - the Secret Service takes chances that would have been
unthinkable years ago. That includes not putting people through magnetometers at all or
shutting them down early when an event is about to start, and staffs
apply pressure because attendees are waiting outside
- Stretched Too Thin At The Atlantic, Marc Ambinder
tries to piece together the facts to determine how the security lapse
could have happened. He says that "at major events, the Uniformed
Division officers are often overtaxed
as they try to clear through dozens of people waiting on line." Here's
what he knows:
Division is already understaffed. At big events, supervisors increase
the size of the duty roster. Still, the West Front gate on the North
Lawn -- the checkpoint "crashed" in this instance -- has exactly one
magnetometer, which means that people are forced to wait in line, which
means that people get anxious and frustrated, which means that the
officers get anxious and frustrated. Occasionally, a supervisor or an
extra officer is dispatched to help speed people through -- one person
checks photo IDs against the lists, isolates the cleared folks outside
the gate, and then directs them through the line.
- Were They Even Paying Attention? At Time Magazine, Karen Tumulty
has questions. "Okay, the checkpoint worked," she writes. "But why did
they then just let this
unauthorized couple go on their way? Shouldn't they have been at least
a little suspicious that they would try to get in through another
gate?" Tumulty says it would be fairly obvious to anyone who was paying
attention that the Virginia couple were intent on entering the event.
"(Hint to Secret Service: The fact that they then got out of their car,
and did a quick touch-up, suggests that they were not planning to go
home and spend the rest of the evening watching TV and doing laundry.)"
- Procedures Were Not Followed At The Washington Post, Michael D. Shear
reported that simple protocols simply were not adhered to at the state
dinner last week. "The Secret Service said Thursday that its procedures
to ensure a tight
bubble of security around the White House and the political leaders
under the agency's care were not followed when an uninvited Virginia couple attended Tuesday night's state dinner."
- Heads Should Roll Apparently, William Bradley
writes at Huffington Post, "you don't need a gun to kill the
president." Bradley says the incident is deeply concerning, "especially
since Obama, the first black president, assailed by
right-wing extremists as illegitimate, gets far more death threats than
any previous president." Bradley says it is "shockingly" easy to
assassinate President Obama. "The guy, who easily penetrated White
House security, looks like a total
dweeb. Not that appearances mean much. But the reality is that the
woman, who also easily penetrated White House security, could have been
a serious threat, too."
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