Is Barack Obama’s life in danger? This has become a necessary question after an astonishing series of mistakes has emerged, committed by Secret Service agents who should be guaranteeing the president’s safety. The White House tenant’s security has become a political issue in the United States. The decision taken less than a month ago by Julia Pierson, Obama’s director of the Secret Service, to step down from her job has seemed enough only to very few since the security leaks do not seem to be diminishing. And there are already seven incidents being talked about in a single year — a number considered intolerable for the most powerful man in the world.
Scaling the White House Fence
Dominic Adesanya, a 23-year-old African American from Bel Air, was able to jump the White House fence, getting within 30 yards of one of the entrances before being subdued by Secret Service agents. Initially he was stopped by two dogs, which were injured when he kicked and punched them, then by agents. He is now recovering in the hospital. It appears that the young man, who was wearing a pair of white shorts, lifted up his shirt so the agents could see he wasn’t armed.
An Armed Man in the Elevator with Obama
Going back to Sept. 16, Obama was visiting the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta. An armed stranger got into the elevator with him, a contract security guard for the building. The Secret Service agents realized that he was someone who shouldn’t be there, however, after he began acting unprofessionally: He took his cellphone out of his pocket and started snapping some pictures of Obama.
The man was then taken aside and after some checks were run, it was discovered that he had a criminal history. He had been convicted of assault and battery on three separate occasions — not exactly the profile of someone who should be allowed to stand a few inches away from the president with a pistol in a holster. In that Atlanta elevator, the White House Secret Service agents had violated rule number one for guaranteeing Obama’s safety: No armed stranger should come near POTUS (president of the United States).
At the White House with a Knife
The incident in Atlanta occurred just three days before the sensational feat of Omar Gonzales, the 42-year-old Iraq veteran who scaled the White House fence, sprinted through the garden and penetrated into the East Room, in theory the safest place in the world. He carried a knife with him, although it would appear that he had no intention of using it.
Gonzales succeeded in entering the White House because no one saw him leap over the fence, no one set the guard dogs loose, no one had checked that the gates were closed, no one realized that the alarm on that entryway wasn’t working. And yet, it should have been a bunker.
After his arrest, the man insisted that he only wanted to alert the president to the disasters caused by climate change. Just a few months before, Gonzales had been stopped and 11 handguns and rifles had been found in his car … along with a map of the White House. He was then released. Two months later, he showed up at Pennsylvania Avenue.
Secret Service Mistakes
Putting together these two incidents gives a sense of how much Obama’s safety is at risk — particularly considering that they occurred in rapid sequence, one just a few hours after the other. But they aren’t the only ones to have come out. There were others that date back some time. For example, in 2011 a stranger fired bullets against the front of the White House, one hitting a window in the president’s private quarters. In 2009, a husband and wife gatecrashed a state reception at the White House, getting to shake the president’s hand. The two had bypassed every inspection point.
Another scandal erupted in 2012 when security agents who were stationed in Colombia for one of Obama’s state visits were discovered completely drunk at their hotel. It was promised that there would be a tightening up of rules; however, just a few months later in Holland, the same thing happened. The parties involved were suspended from duty.
How can all these blunders be explained? According to some sources, low morale and frustration is rife within Obama’s security team after recent budget cuts and reduction in personnel. However, financial issues certainly cannot explain this level of unpreparedness. The issue is perhaps simply this: The U.S. president’s much feared protection service does not possess an adequate level of professionalism.
Intruder by Helicopter
And yet, in all of U.S. history, Obama is one of the presidents most at risk. Every year there are dozens upon dozens of reports of death threats coming from internal sources — radical right-wing groups — and external sources — Islamic terrorists. However, the experience of recent years, with almost 15 intruders at the White House, should have triggered much greater security for him.
In reality, there have always been intruders at Pennsylvania Avenue. Theodore Roosevelt found himself next to an armed stranger and, when he realized the man might be dangerous, had him surrounded by security agents. During World War II, Franklin Delano Roosevelt enjoyed watching films for relaxation in the White House’s small home cinema. One evening, he discovered he had been watching a preview next to an intruder who had been sitting beside him without anyone realizing.
There were two episodes in 1974: On Christmas day, a man who thought he was the Messiah took a car, crashed it through the Northwest Gate and ended up under the North Portico of the president’s residence. A few months later, there was an even more audacious invasion. A military veteran stole a helicopter and flew it over the White House. He touched down on the South Lawn, took off again and touched down again. Secret Service agents began shooting only during the second landing. And those were the incidents that ended well.
It is well known that there have been many successful attempts against presidents throughout American history. Is Barack Obama’s life in danger?