The White House Break In
The White House Break InWhite House break in

The White House Break In | What Went Wrong?

As one of the most secure places in the United States, the idea that the Presidential White House at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue could be penetrated by an intruder seems crazy. But that is exactly what occurred on September 19th, 2014 as decorated military veteran Omar J. Gonzalez, a native Texan, hopped a White House fence and did the impossible.

At first, secret service members claimed that the intruder was apprehended at the front door, never having entered the home of the President. As the story developed, evidence was released confirming that Gonzalez made it much further than the public was originally led to believe.

Media reports now claim that Gonzalez was in fact armed with a serrated knife and was able to overpower a female secret service member guarding the front of the building. He then proceeded to enter the White House and sprint through to the East Room where he was finally tackled down and apprehended by the same agent he’d managed to pass at the main doors.

The secret service is one of the most intimidating security organizations in America. The idea that an average person could so easily overcome them to break into the most secure building in America is hard to believe. The White House was protected by additional alarm systems, the problem here was that despite the alarms being active and in place, leadership in the usher’s office had decided to mute the alarms, as they had become disruptive to the daily operations of the White House. Many officials are placing fault on the lack of leadership rather than on the lack of resources in place to protect the White House. The lapse in judgment shows poor priority on the part of the Secret Service.

President Barak Obama and his family were not in the White House at the time of the security breach, nonetheless the events of September 19th raised many questions about the competency of the White House security protocols and the competency of the Secret Service’s director at the time. Overall, the incident is being considered a huge oversight on the part of the leaders of White House security. The U.S. Secret Service Director Julia Pearson resigned after the event. She was quoted saying that the intrusion was “not acceptable” and promised that such an incidence “will never happen again.”

Gonzalez, 42, had been previously diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder after serving in the U.S. Army and touring in Iraq. After pleading not guilty at his last hearing, Gonzalez is awaiting a mental competency screening to determine whether he is mentally able to withstand trial. Authorities have stated that Gonzalez was in possession of 800 rounds of ammunition, a machete, and two hatchets – which were left in his car during the break in.

What could the Secret Service have done to prevent such a situation? First, the mechanics of alarm systems should never ever be disabled. Catastrophe occurs when guard is down and security has reached a comfort level. It is the responsibility of security personnel to heighten their senses while on duty and have active reliable technology at all times. The White House security was quoted earlier in September mentioning their five layers of security, all of which were successfully breached by Gonzales on September 19th. The first layer of security includes “counter-surveillance”, who is trained to detect suspicious tourists and those attempting to hop the fence. Next, the uniformed division officers are in place to apprehend any individuals who are noted for suspicious activity. A canine unit is also in place to be released in the event that other methods fail. The fourth layer includes a SWAT team while the fifth is a security officer placed at the doors.

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