Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

When to Shoot: Why the Secret Service Is in Hot Water

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

When to Shoot: Why the Secret Service Is in Hot Water

Article excerpt

When members of Congress tear into the US Secret Service at a hearing this week, it will have been prompted by the recent incident involving a White House fence-jumper who made it inside the front door of the president's residence and principal place of business.

As it turned out, Omar Gonzalez was a troubled Iraq war vet and not a terrorist. His only weapon when officers tackled him just inside a White House entrance was a small knife in his pocket. And yet his vehicle held a small arsenal - semi-automatic weapons and hundreds of rounds of ammunition - plus a map of Washington with a circle around the White House grounds.

More troubling for lawmakers and other critics of such security lapses is a recently-revealed incident on Nov. 11, 2011 when at least seven shots from a high-powered rifle were fired at the White House, breaking windows and causing other damage near the upstairs residence.

As reported in the Washington Post Saturday night, there were "a string of security lapses, never previously reported, as the Secret Service failed to identify and properly investigate a serious attack on the White House."

President Obama and his wife were out of town at the time, but their younger daughter, Sasha, and Michelle Obama's mother were inside, while older daughter Malia was just returning from an outing with friends.

The Washington Post reports this initial scene:

"Secret Service officers initially rushed to respond. One, stationed directly under the second-floor terrace where the bullets struck, drew her .357 handgun and prepared to crack open an emergency gun box. Snipers on the roof, standing just 20 feet from where one bullet struck, scanned the South Lawn through their rifle scopes for signs of an attack. With little camera surveillance on the White House perimeter, it was up to the Secret Service officers on duty to figure out what was going on.

"Then came an order that surprised some of the officers. "No shots have been fired. .[226 128 137 ].[226 128 137 ]. …

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