Secret Service fails the call of duty

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Daniel Maibenco

When we think of security, especially in this day and age, we think of people who are vigilant, cautious, alert and always observant. No matter what political side you’re on, we can all agree that Washington D.C., namely the White House and presidency, is supposed to have the best protection the American public can provide.

But on Sept. 20, 2014, Omar J. Gonzalez, a retired army veteran from Texas, did what many would have considered previously unthinkable. He jumped the White House fence and made it all the way INSIDE a door of the white house before being arrested.

The fact that someone tried to break into the White House is nothing new—several have tried and failed over the years. Mr. Gonzalez is the first person to have actually succeeded in getting past the Secret Service and making it to the president’s front door. When searched, the suspect had no other weapons aside from a small knife.

Now imagine if, instead of a retired army vet, a domestic or foreign-based terrorist made it past the Secret Service. Now imagine that, instead of a knife, the suspect had an explosive device. The damage could have been unimaginable. It could have been a very real assassination attempt.

In reality, the President and his family were not present at the White House at the time of this disturbance. But if they had been, the danger could have been extremely real, especially if it was someone other than Omar Gonzalez—probably more threatening—that barraged through their door.

This issue highlights one very important, yet seemingly simple, value: awareness. The Secret Service members in charge of watching the White House and keeping his home base secure failed. Don’t get me wrong— I believe that as a whole the Secret Service as well as other government agencies do a good job at keeping the American public safe. But it only takes one mistake, no matter how simple or small, to cause a catastrophe.

This isn’t the first time that members of the Secret Service have been less than careful in minding their duties. In March 2014, several USSS agents on duty in the Netherlands went out drinking and one agent was found passed out in a hotel hallway. Nov. 2013, In D.C., a Secret Service supervisor tried to get a Hay-Adams hotel staff to let him re-enter a woman’s room after he lost a bullet from his service weapon. The most recent and damning incident was the scandal in Bogata, Columbia where several Secret Service agents were re-assigned or fired after they partied with prostitutes before the president arrived for a summit.

While the collective whole of the Secret Service is very good and efficient at protecting the President and others, some agents let their judgment get clouded or just don’t pay attention. In all of these recent disturbances, no one was hurt, no one was killed and no one really posed a greater threat to national security. But, if something terrible were to have happened, especially to the President or to his family, then who is to blame—individual agents or the agency as a whole?

The bottom line is everyone in charge of keeping people and places safe need to be always alert, avoid temptations and use force to subdue any threat, no matter how small. After Saturday’s incident, it is insinuated that there is a philosophy among several agents that nothing will happen while they are on duty. These select few believe no one will dare to test or try them. If that is the case, then it may not take much wit to outsmart the Secret Service and cause immense harm to an individual or even the nation.