White House Security

Has any of the news coverage about the White House security issues covered the angle of whether the government is managing risks effectively?

During Obama’s presidency, the government has stationed submarines off the coast of Martha’s Vineyard. The taxpayers have funded supersonic jet fighters to chase down 100-knot Cessna float planes (posting). We’ve paid for a $400 million fighter jet to chase down a $30,000 biplane (posting). Special helicopters have been loaded into cargo planes and flown to distant corners of the globe. We have built excellent defenses against Dr. Evil from the Austin Powers movies. But now it transpires that a person intent on harming the president need only walk into the White House with whatever arms he or she happens to be carrying.

12 thoughts on “White House Security

  1. The fighter jets, special helicopters, submarines, etc. are all for show, and to keep our enemy at bay just like president Reagan did with SDI [1]. Only this time, we exposed our weak spots because of mismanagement. The recent White House security issues is no different when compared to the intelligent leaks that we have seen recently [2], [3]; they all put us at risk.

    [1] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Strategic_Defense_Initiative
    [2] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Edward_Snowden
    [3] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/PRISM_(surveillance_program)

  2. Philip’s brother-in-law pointed out that the intruder, likely with lots of mental issues but physically about average for a male, managed to overpower a female Secret Service agent. If female agents aren’t trained in martial arts, or don’t have a weapon on their person, are they truly the most qualified for the job? In celebrity gawking, have noticed that Sir Mick Jagger, estimated to weigh no more than about 140 lbs., is always accompanied by a beefy guy who looks to weigh north of 225 lbs. And why is the door unlocked? (or do they assume no one will get as close as that?)

  3. I’m sure the president is more than happy to sacrifice his personal safety for the greater cause of gender equality in the workforce.

  4. The question of male/female agents is one that I hadn’t considered and isn’t related to the original posting. Given that there are hundreds of Secret Service employees surrounding the president at all times I don’t think that a woman should be disqualified from this job. I would think that it would be more important to have good eyes and vigilance (to summon the rest of the troops) than to have strong muscles. If there were only one bodyguard maybe a big gorilla would be more effective…

    But my point was that one can’t watch for all threats all of the time. So if you put money and effort into thwarting an amphibious assault on Martha’s Vineyard you’re more likely to miss people who attack in less creative/elaborate ways.

    [Since this has become a family comment thread, I will remind Suzanne that our father, over 6′ tall, would walk around looking for stuff on which he might hit his head. The result would be tripping over the poodle and other obstacles. Sometimes he switched gears and watched for tripping hazards. The result would be banging his head on low points.]

  5. It is worth noting that throughout American history, almost all of the successful (and almost successful) presidential assassinations (except maybe Lincoln’s) have been carried out (conspiracy theories not withstanding) by loners of questionable sanity using very “low tech” means – usually nothing more than a pistol or a hunting rifle. Even during periods of war when decapitation strikes would have been in the enemy’s interest, none were attempted. And again the latest threat fit this pattern, so this may (one would hope) give the Secret Service a clue as to where they should be focusing their efforts. But one does not accrue bureaucratic glory with just a small crew of burly bodyguards.

  6. As a long-time resident of our imperial capital, I frequently encounter the indignities of motorcades and other security theater, especially when the President goes out to grab a sandwich somewhere local.

    Anecdotally, I’d say I’ve seen a larger percentage of uniformed female secret service agents than other police officers. Of which we have many: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_law_enforcement_agencies_in_the_District_of_Columbia#Federal_police_agencies_with_a_presence_in_Washington_DC

  7. as I recall, the agents surrounding President Reagan at the Washington Hilton during that assassination attempt were male. @Dan couldn’t agree with you more, and a new LGBT initiative is taking hold at the Department of Labor to supplement the gender laws already on the books

  8. A much less expensive jet would have been up to the task of intercepting the biplane:

  9. Why isn’t all this classified?

    Publicizing weaknesses in Presidential security can only encourage others to try to kill the president as well as furnishing them a blueprint on how to do it. One would think that protecting himself and his family is enough to motivate Obama to insure that his security is effective. He hardly needs the glare of publicity to motivate him.

    What an oddly detached man he is. He is “said to be” angry about his house being shot at. He puts a person in charge of himself and his family’s safety who has the best optics and who is not the most effective person for the job. Finally, he aggressively uses the security laws of the country to protect other bureaucrats and politicians and not to enhance our security or his own.

  10. >Why isn’t all this classified?

    The news did come out in dribs and drabs, not because it was classified but because it was embarrassing to the Secret Service. In an open society like ours (and in a place like Washington where there are competing bureaucracies and competing bureaucrats) it’s inevitable that even “secret” information leaks. Look at Snowden. But really, the information that came out was not detailed enough to aid future assassins and in any case they have surely (I hope) hardened their setup since the news came out.

  11. When President Obama took office he promised “transparency” and “open government” [1] [2] as central of his presidency. Just like all presidents before him, he soon learned politics is a game more than anything else; a game you must play in your favor [3] [4].

    [1] http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=72g7qmeP1dE
    [2] http://www.whitehouse.gov/the_press_office/TransparencyandOpenGovernment
    [3] http://www.theguardian.com/world/2013/oct/10/obama-leaks-aggressive-nixon-report-prosecution
    [4] http://www.foreignpolicy.com/articles/2012/06/07/good_leak_bad_leak

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