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article imageOp-Ed: Safety of First Family a national embarrassment

By Karen Graham     Oct 1, 2014 in Politics
Regardless of your politics, the safety of our nation's president and the First Family should be, without question, the paramount duty of our Secret Service. Since 2009, the agency has been hit with a continuing escalation of breeches and mishaps.
After the latest breech in security at the White House on Sept. 19, Secret Service Director Julia Pierson was put in the hot seat by a Congressional committee. She was grilled for three hours on Tuesday, and failed to mention an even bigger gaffe by her agency.
According to the Washington Post, an armed security contractor was allowed on the elevator with President Obama during his visit to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in Atlanta. To make matters worse, the armed security guard had three convictions for assault and battery on his record.
Through all of the questions and subsequent revelations of other breeches in security that have come to light over the past few days, lawmakers and the public are left wondering if big changes in the agency are needed. Rep. Jason Chaffetz, R-Utah, and Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Md. are senior members of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee. While neither lawmaker called for Pierson's resignation during the Tuesday hearing, they have their doubts about her ability to remain as director.
But with this latest gaffe, which Pierson knew about but failed to mention during the hearings, we are left to wonder what else she is hiding. According to two "whistle blowers," President Obama was not told about the breech in security in Atlanta. Pierson asked an agency manager to "look into the situation," but did not refer the matter to an investigative unit. This unit was created specifically to look into a possible violation of protocol and standards.
In this particular event, and it is a serious breech in protocol, the unnamed security guard was not screened before he was allowed to get close to the president. The Secret Service agents present at that time didn't even know he was armed. They found out after the fact.
When Chaffetz was first told of the incident, he was outraged. “You have a convicted felon within arm’s reach of the president, and they never did a background check,” Chaffetz said. “Words aren’t strong enough for the outrage I feel for the safety of the president and his family. His life was in danger. This country would be a different world today if he had pulled out his gun.”
Julia Pierson was appointed by President Obama to the position of Director of the Secret Service in March, 2013 after then Director Mark Sullivan had to step down. Under Sullivan, the agency came under fire because of a number of incidents. They dated back to the Obama's first state dinner in 2009, when a Virginia couple crashed the party, to the fiasco in Columbia involving prostitutes in agent's hotel rooms.
It is obvious that the protocols in place during the Reagan and Clinton presidencies are not being followed today. Is it only because of the "photo ops," or is it more a problem of laxness in the protective detail around the president? During Reagan's presidency, you never saw him without also seeing an agent close to him. With President Obama, you often wonder if agents are present.
It is a national embarrassment to think anyone could be allowed to jump the White House fence and get inside the building without being stopped, especially in this day and age. Many lawmakers and average citizens are saying the interloper should have been shot on site. But where was the Secret Service?
This opinion article was written by an independent writer. The opinions and views expressed herein are those of the author and are not necessarily intended to reflect those of
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