Friday, November 14, 2014

White House Security Measures "All Failed in Stunning Succession"

Nice hedges there, in front of the door

The Secret Service was already embarrassed by its failure to stop that White House fence-jumper back on September 19, but until today we didn't know how very badly it failed. The WaPo reported on an internal review of the incident (here) and had this to say:
Layer after layer of security measures that were supposed to block an intruder from getting into the White House all failed in stunning succession on the evening of Sept. 19, according to an internal review of a fence jumper’s breach.

There were nearly a dozen failures in the Secret Service’s rings of security that helped Omar Jose Gonzalez, 42, get inside the White House and deep into the East Room, according to a Department of Homeland Security review, a summary of which was obtained Thursday by The Washington Post
The executive summary is here. It is grim reading.

The report has surprising stuff - surprising to me, at least - about shortcomings in elementary physical and technical security countermeasures. For instance, the intruder climbed the White House fence at a weak spot that lacked an ornamental spike topping, temporary construction around the fence line blocked officers' visibility during the incident, the Emergency Response Team officers and the dog handler all assumed that bushes near the North Portico were an impassable barrier (whereas the intruder went through them with no trouble), alarm annunciation had been muted inside the White House at the staff's request leaving the officer who was posted directly inside the North Portico door unaware of what was going on, and the doors lacked any automated locking mechanism.

The training and staffing problems were even worse, if that is possible. One tidbit is enough to make my point. According to the investigation, responding members of the Emergency Response Team didn't know the layout of the White House and hesitated to go into the mansion after the break-in. They "had never received familiarization training regarding the interior of the White House." What?

The part about the bushes interests me. “Prior to that evening, the Officers believed the bushes too thick to be passable” the report says. Really? Are they some sort of super-special high security bushes?

No, they aren't. According to a White House pamphlet about the landscaping of the grounds, the bushes are simple English and American boxwoods. Those are evergreens that have dense foliage and are often used for privacy fences or border hedges, but they are no more impassable than any other common shrubbery. Have the White House Uniformed Division Officers never received familiarization training about the exterior of the White House, either?


James said...

I have just received the Secret Service retraining video, now mandatory:

James said...

TSB: Crack White House teams are at this moment resolving the vexatious vegetation problem: