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Wade Heath: We must do a better job of protecting the White House

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Posted: Wednesday, March 15, 2017 12:05 am

Late Saturday night, U.S. Secret Service members stumbled upon a man outside the residence of the White House. When asked if he had a badge that allowed him to be there, the man said that he had no badge but was a friend of the president and had an appointment to meet with him.

The man was carrying a U.S. passport, an Apple laptop computer, a book written by Donald Trump and a letter he had written to the president. Authorities also discovered two cans of Mace on the man, including one inside his jacket pocket, according to a criminal complaint filed in U.S. District Court.

When asked how the man, now identified as Jonathan Tran, 26, of Milpitas, had accessed the property, he admitted to having jumped the perimeter fence near the Treasury Department.

The following day, from his golf club in Northern Virginia, Trump said, “Secret Service did a fantastic job last night.”

But did they?

Call me crazy, but I’ve long imagined that the White House, the executive mansion that houses the leader of the free world, is perhaps the most secure property on the planet.

So when an intruder casually hops a fence and saunters up to the residence of our chief executive with our president inside, I am deeply concerned.

And for all of you that like to play the political game rather than listen to reason, let me rephrase that. I am deeply concerned that an intruder could get this close to our leader whether it was President Obama or currently President Trump.

Regardless of party affiliation, they represent us as the first family and they must be safe.

But this security problem at the White House didn’t start here. Journey with me back to 1912 when a man barged right through the front door.

The Illinois paper The Day Book reported at the time that “when he reached the White House, he ran swiftly up the steps, dashed past the doorkeeper, and for a moment was lost in the darkness of the hall.” He was subdued and ejected from the building, then “a few minutes later he repeated the performance.”

Winter, who reportedly had a knife in his pocket, insisted he had to speak to President Taft but wouldn’t say why.

In 1985 a man followed a 33-member Marine Band into the White House with a knapsack over his shoulder. It was said that he wandered the residence for several minutes until Secret Service agents realized what was happening and detained him.

Who could forget in 2009 at a state dinner for then Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, when Carlos Allen, Michaele Salahi and Tareq Salahi, showed up uninvited and then went on to meet President Obama.

And in 2014, when Omar J. Gonzalez was found to be carrying a knife after he had scaled the fence, sprinted across the lawn and entered the White House’s East Room before anyone was able to stop him. Officers later found 800 rounds of ammunition, two hatchets and a machete in his car.

Under President Bill Clinton there were two incidents. President George W. Bush saw five White House security breaches.

Under Obama, there were six. We are less than two months into Trump’s presidency and already one has occurred.

That’s an increase, folks. An increase of security breaches in a time where we have more technology, security funding and man power dedicated to protecting the White House and the first family than ever before.

So exactly how do these lone individuals keep penetrating what is supposed to be America’s most protected estate?

Great question. To be a part of the U.S. Secret Service you must pass rigorous tests, have a legacy of loyalty to your country and be one of the most alert and tactically minded individuals anywhere.

Are they stretched too thin? Are they not being directed properly? Is there low morale?

It’s hard to understand since what they do is designed to be secretive, but they are questions we should all be asking.

I do think it’s interesting to see that after the Secret Service was reorganized from reporting up to the Treasury Department to reporting up to the Department of Homeland Security, that incidents went up.

I also have a hard time appreciating that the elite Secret Service is designated into the same department as the sloppy and often ignorant TSA.

All I know is that with the political division running as deep as it is currently, we are potentially one incident away from total chaos and the president shouldn’t be praising the late-to-the-party response, he should be launching an investigation into why the Secret Service and the White House isn’t better protected.

Wade Heath grew up in Lodi. Reconnect with him:

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