What's Wrong With the Secret Service?

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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:
The 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."

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.