Tuesday, September 30, 2014

The president and his family are not safe

I took the time today to watch the full 3.5 hour House Oversight and Government Reform Committee hearing on the failure of the Secret Service to stop Omar Gonzalez from entering the White House on September 19, 2014.  Secret Service Director Julia Pierson was the primary witness.

The take away from this hearing is that the Secret Service is not prepared to protect the President of the United States and his family.

It was clear that the Secret Service is headed by a bureaucrat. It needs a hard nose field agent who will take whatever action is necessary to protect the president and his family and suffer no fools in the pursuit of duty.  Director Pierson should be immediately fired.

The incident on September 20th is not a single isolated failure. Another incident on November 11, 2011 in which a gunmen fired an AK-47 from his car hitting the White House at least seven times revealed the Secret Service is incompetent.

These specific failures are in addition to recent fiascoes of drunkenness and the plying of prostitutes by Secret Service Agents overseas.

Following Gonzalez' penetration of the White House the Secret Service issued a press release in which they said, “officers showed tremendous restraint and discipline in dealing with this subject.”  Commendation for showing restraint?  This event calls for disciplinary action for failing to exercise overwhelming and deadly force.

Some have said, “could you imagine if they had shot a veteran with PTSD on the portico of the White House what the fallout would be?”   There would likely be some outcry about treatment of veterans.   So be it.  The message should be loud and clear to those who aim to attack our country, our president, and the symbol of our country that is the White House – you will be stopped by whatever means necessary.   The perimeter of defense around the president, his family and his home must be defended.  There is no way to know if the attacker is a deranged loner or a suicide-belted jihadist. Both must be stopped with lethal force if necessary.

The testimony of the Director of the Secret Service revealed the authority of an agent to use deadly force during an assault on the White House is an individual call by each agent.   That policy clearly failed in this case of a lone and unstable man.  The default policy should be that if you climb over the fence you will be subject to immediate, overwhelming and deadly force if necessary.

Imagine that instead of a lone disturbed man this had been a team of jihadist terrorists bent on as much destruction as possible.  Armed with suicide vests, grenades, AK-47s and a half decent plan of distraction and assault at least one and probably more could have made it to the First Family residence and killed everyone present.  Those who think it could not happen are not paying attention.

The mystique of the Secret Service as all knowing and effective is over.  As Rep. Elijah Cummings said during the hearing it is the Secret Service’s reputation that prevents people from even considering an attack on the president.  That reputation was sullied by agency cultural failings.  But these most recent incidents of specific penetration of the perimeter of the White House show those who would harm the president that the Secret Service is not so effective after all.

We are living in a time of danger in which it is very difficult to detect and defeat those who wish us harm.   We cannot have rules of engagement within the military or protocols within the Secret Service that are so averse to making mistakes or getting bad press that we fail to accomplish the mission intended.

The president and his family must be protected.  That protection requires harsh and rigid application of overwhelming and when necessary deadly force - not dumb luck.

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