How did a man manage to scale a fence and actually enter the White House before being apprehended? Basically, by the government not paying sufficient attention to the need to protect the President, his family, and the White House itself from a basic physical intrusion.
Omar Gonzalez climbed the fence surrounding the White House, raced across 70 yards of lawn, and entered the building through the North Portico entrance — which, amazingly, was unlocked. Because he did not appear to be armed, he was not shot, nor did the Secret Service release a dog trained to knock down intruders. However, Gonzalez in fact was carrying a 3 1/2-inch knife. Fortunately, the President and his family had left the White House minutes before. We now are learning that Gonzalez, a former veteran, possessed lots of ammunition, as well as a machete, a hatchet, and other weapons in his car.
White House fence-jumpers are not unusual, and the Washington Post reports that a Secret Service study showed that the White House is vulnerable to attack by multiple people climbing the fence at the same time. The Post also notes that there are “severe staffing shortages” and high turnover in the force charged with White House security. Due to budgetary concerns the Secret Service decided not to fully staff the division in charge of White House grounds, to cancel Secret Service Academy training classes, and to not pay agents overtime. The Post article quotes a Secret Service spokesman as saying: “There is not an endless amount of money. We can’t do the hiring, and that’s the decision that was made.”
Seriously? The federal government has spent money like a drunken sailor for years, running up enormous budget deficits, and we can’t afford to fully staff the agency charged with keeping the President and his family safe? Here’s a suggestion: take whatever money is spent producing and broadcasting useless “Click It or Ticket” commercials and use it to hire, train, and properly pay Secret Service agents. And while you’re at it, let’s get an additional dog or two and use them the next time a guy jumps the White House fence.
The Secret Service used to be viewed as an elite agency, but its reputation has taken a beating in recent years, with people not on the guest list crashing White House dinners, scandals about liquored-up agents consorting with prostitutes, and now an inexcusable breach of security by the most low-tech attack imaginable. Someone in the federal government needs to get our priorities straight and realize that protecting the President is of paramount importance. Budgetary concerns shouldn’t be part of the equation.