TIME White House

White House Fence Must Be Raised ‘Immediately,’ Report Says

White House Security Secret Service
The White House is seen behind a fence on Oct. 3, 2014 in Washington. Mandel Ngan—AFP/Getty Images

An independent review into the practices of the U.S. Secret Service following several high-profile security breaches this year faults the agency for failing to maintain high training and accountability standards.

The executive summary of the classified report details recommendations for the beleaguered agency, which allowed a mentally disturbed man armed with a knife to enter the Executive Mansion, but also notes broad shortcomings to its readiness and training capabilities. On a practical level, it called for raising the fence surrounding the White House immediately following the security breach.

“We recognize all of the competing considerations that may go into questions regarding the fence, but believe that protection of the President and the White House must be the higher priority,” the report states. “As the Executive Branch, Congress, and the Service itself have all recognized, the fence must be addressed immediately.”

The report suggests that raising the fence at least “four or five feet would be materially helpful,” adding that it should be redesigned to eliminate horizontal bars and to potentially curve outward at the top to deter would-be fence-climbers and to give officers more time to respond to a would-be threat. The fence should be replaced around the entire 18-acre complex, not just along Pennsylvania Avenue, where most of the incidents have occurred, the report states.

Prepared by two former Justice Department officials and two former White House aides at the request of Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson, the report faults the department for failing to maintain adequate training standards. The Presidential Protective Division’s so-called “fourth shift,” which is supposed to allow the specialized agents charged with protecting the president to spend two weeks of every eight in training, has “diminished far below acceptable levels,” along with training for the agency’s Uniformed Division, which protects the White House complex. According to the report, apart from basic firearms and career training, the average agent received just 42 hours of training in fiscal year 2013, while the average uniformed division officer received under 25 minutes of training in the entire year.

“The panel’s recommendations are astute, thorough and fair,” Johnson said in a statement, saying Acting Director Joe Clancy has already implemented some of the recommendations.

The report details staffing shortfalls at the White House, where agents and officers have been assigned long duty tours and extended overtime shifts. “Rather than invest in systems to manage the organization more effectively and accurately predict its needs, the Service simply adds more overtime for existing personnel,” the report states, saying the two divisions are “stretched beyond their limits.” “Rather than sending its agents and officers to training, it keeps them at their posts.”

The panel calls on Congress and the Executive Branch to free up money to immediately hire 85 special agents and 200 Uniformed Division officers to allow for more time to be devoted to training, with a further review to determine whether any more are needed.

The report calls on the next director to come from outside the Secret Service, a shift that it says is needed to inject new leadership to address a culture of unaccountability. “The next director of the Secret Service should be a strong leader from outside the agency who has a protective, law enforcement, or military background and who can drive cultural change in the organization and move the Secret Service forward into a new era: The need to change, reinvigorate, and question long-held assumptions-from within the agency itself-is too critical now for the next director to be an insider,” the report states.

The new director must “must build a new budget from the ground up by defining its mission, determining what it will take to achieve it, and asking for that,” rather than working off what it believes it can get through the budget process. The panel says new steps must be taken to ensure that agency leadership and managers are open to suggestions and criticism of department practices by agents and officers in the field, and to ensure that the Secret Services’ disciplinary processes are followed and enforced in a fair and consistent fashion.

TIME Crime

White House Fence Jumper Found Mentally Fit to Stand Trial

New River Regional Jail booking photo of Omar Gonzalez
Alleged White House fence jumper Omar Gonzalez, 42, is shown in this New River Regional Jail booking photo released on September 23, 2014. Handout—Reuters

The jumper successfully reached the Executive Mansion and ran through multiple rooms, leading to the Secret Service director's resignation and prompting a huge security review within the storied agency

A U.S. Army veteran accused of jumping the White House fence and racing into the executive mansion in September has been found competent to stand trial.

Omar J. Gonzalez, who served in Iraq, was indicted Sept. 30 and again on Oct. 16. on multiple charges, including federal counts, the Washington Post reports. A judge had ordered a mental health evaluation for him in October.

Gonzalez is accused of climbing the north fence at the White House on Sept. 19 and dashing into the mansion, where he ran through several rooms before being apprehended by the Secret Service. Authorities found a folding knife in his pocket, as well as a machete, two hatchets and hundreds of rounds of ammunition in his car.

[The Washington Post]

TIME Congress

Acting Secret Service Director ‘Confident’ He Can Restore Faith in Agency

Joseph Clancy
Acting Secret Service Director Joseph Clancy testifies on Capitol Hill Susan Walsh—AP

Joseph Clancy addressed the House Judiciary Committee on Wednesday, noting the failures that have led to public mistrust in the agency

Acting Director of the Secret Service Joseph Clancy told lawmakers on Wednesday he’s “confident” he can restore the American public’s faith in the agency, in the wake of high-profile security breaches that put the President and First Family in danger.

“We are confident we can fulfill our mission with honor, and restore the secret service’s rightful place as the most respected protection service in the world,” Clancy said Wednesday in front of the House Judiciary Committee.

It has been a little over a month since Clancy took the reigns at the Secret Service, after previous director Julia Pierson stepped down after the public found out that an army veteran named Omar Gonzales had been able to reach the East Room of the White House after jumping a fence and running inside.

Clancy acknowledged the failures of the agency in recent months, saying he is working to adjust training and morale within an agency he notes is stretched thin. He also addressed the Sept. 19 fence jumping, calling it “devastating.”

“What hits me hardest is the range of shortcomings that ultimately allowed Omar Gonzalez to enter the White House practically unencumbered,” he said.

The Washington Post reports Rep. Jason Chaffetz, who will serve as the next chairman of the House Oversight committee, grilled Clancy on whether or not anyone had been punished for misleading the public on when the fence jumper was detained in early reports.

“We’ve cited at least two, I believe three, incidents when the public was misinformed,” Chaffetz reportedly said. “The Secret Service misled us on purpose.”

TIME Government

Report Details Secret Service Mishaps in White House Breach

White House at midday
White House at midday Allan Baxter—Getty Images

One of several blunders, according to a Homeland Security report

An intruder was able to climb the White House fence and enter the premises in September because of a number of mishaps, like faulty alarm systems and officers not even spotting him, according to a summary of a Homeland Security report Thursday.

Members of Congress were briefed on the report Thursday, according to the New York Times, which obtained its executive summary. The report is said to detail the security lapses that allowed Omar Gonzalez, who is charged in the Sept. 19 breach, to enter the White House. Among them, an officer who was stationed with an attack dog on the North Lawn was busy talking on a personal cell phone in a van and had not seen the man climb the fence.

Julia Pierson, who was the Secret Service director at the time of the incident, later resigned.

Read more at the New York Times

TIME politics

It Shouldn’t Take Another Tragedy To Reform the Secret Service

US-POLITICS-SECURITY-WHITE HOUSE
A member of Secret Service walks on the North Lawn of the White Houes on October 2, 2014 in Washington, DC. US President Barack Obama has appointed former Presidential Protective Division (PPD) director Joe Clancy as interim head of the Secret Service a day after Julia Pierson stepped down from the post. MANDEL NGAN—AFP/Getty Images

Ronald Kessler is the author of The First Family Detail: Secret Service Agents Reveal the Hidden Lives of the Presidents.

The latest incident underscores how important it is to overhaul the Secret Service and its management culture that fosters cutting corners

At least a dozen times a year, intruders try to jump the White House fence. Many of them succeed. Until Omar Gonzalez penetrated the White House itself, the Secret Service had stopped the intruders before they got inside, as the Secret Service admirably did on Wednesday evening when a Uniformed Division dog took down a fence jumper.

But this recent incident spotlights how foolish it is to keep the White House fence where it is. Many will argue that moving the perimeter to Lafayette Park and closing off access to the public along Pennsylvania Avenue somehow shuts down access to the president. But no one has access to the president without an appointment and being cleared by the Secret Service. The public sees the president almost every day on television. The idea that our rights will somehow be impinged upon by making the White House safer is a myth.

However, the latest incident underscores how important it is to overhaul the Secret Service and its management culture that fosters cutting corners. A report issued this week by the Department of Homeland Security’s Inspector General brings that into vivid focus. The report describes how Secret Service management as part of Operation Moonlight diverted agents on the so-called Prowler team from protecting President Obama at the White House to instead protecting Lisa Chopey, the assistant to then Secret Service Director Mark Sullivan, at her home in southern Maryland.

As first reported in my book The First Family Detail, the agents who were diverted to protect Chopey also retrieved confidential law enforcement records on Chopey’s neighbor who had allegedly harassed her. But neither the Secret Service nor the FBI has the authority to protect its own employees. Only when a federal law enforcement officer is threatened or retaliated against as a result of an investigation does such action become a federal offense. As a support employee, Chopey is not a law enforcement officer and was not engaged in an investigation. Thus, retrieving 13 pages of records on the neighbor violated federal criminal laws because the agents had no legitimate law enforcement authority to conduct an investigation of this nature (a point the DHS report failed to note).

Also left unsaid in the DHS report was that one of the purposes of the Prowler team is to look for possible snipers as Marine One lifts off with the president from the White House grounds. On July 1, 2011, Obama and his family left in the helicopter in the late afternoon to go to Camp David, but the Prowler team was nowhere to be found. Instead, the team had been diverted to protect Chopey in southern Maryland.

As if that is not shocking enough, the DHS report quotes Secret Service management and former director Sullivan as defending the decision to divert agents from protecting the president. They claimed the diversion did not impinge on the president’s safety. That, along with the comment by former Secret Service Director Julia Pierson that Secret Service uniformed officers exercised “tremendous restraint” in not taking out Gonzalez even though he penetrated the White House, pinpoints both the arrogance and the negligence of the Secret Service today.

The Secret Service agents involved in Operation Moonlight were fully aware that they were breaking the law, but they felt that their jobs were on the line, a Secret Service agent who asked not to be quoted by name for fear of reprisals told me for the book. The agents “obtained all this information illegally and kept it and were told not to talk about it outside the squad,” the agent says. “They kept records at the duty desk and made agents on every shift initial that they had gone all the way out to southern Maryland to check on the woman’s welfare on the taxpayer dollar.”

DHS Secretary Jeh Johnson has appointed a four-person panel to recommend security improvements at the White House and to suggest a new director. One development the panel should explore are so-called non-lethal weapons such as ear-splitting sound and high-energy beams that are used to protect our nuclear facilities. And the panel should recommend an outside director such as a former FBI official to change the management culture that encourages cover-ups and brazenly defends the indefensible.

This time, the Secret Service succeeded in apprehending a fence jumper. The next time, it may not. It took the assassination of President Kennedy to substantially upgrade the Secret Service the last time. It should not take another tragedy to reform the Secret Service now.

Ronald Kessler, a former Washington Post and Wall Street Journal investigative reporter, is the author of The First Family Detail: Secret Service Agents Reveal the Hidden Lives of the Presidents.

TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email ideas@time.com.

TIME Secret Service

White House Fence Jumper Charged With Felonies After Kicking Dog

K-9s Hurricane and Jordan were cleared to return to duty after suffering minor bruising.

A man who climbed over the White House fence Wednesday evening was immediately apprehended and charged on multiple felony counts, including charges for assaulting police dogs, the Secret Service said Thursday.

The man, identified as 23-year-old Dominic Adesanya of Maryland, was unarmed. He is charged with two counts of assaulting a police dog and one count of making threats, as well as with four misdemeanor charges for resisting/unlawful entry.

According to the Secret Service, a veterinarian treated two of the agency’s dogs–Hurricane and Jordan–for minor bruising before clearing them for duty.

“Dogs got him,” Secret Service spokesman Edwin Donovan said Wednesday, according to Reuters. The White House was put under lockdown for roughly 90 minutes as a result of the incident, which took place just hours after a gunman shot and killed a Canadian soldier on guard outside Ottawa’s Parliament Hill.

The incident also comes a month after a man jumped the White House fence and got deep inside the building before finally being apprehended in what’s become an embarrassing breach for the Secret Service.

TIME National Security

Secret Service Watchdogs Raise Questions About DHS Oversight

Updated at 10:26 a.m. on October 7, 2014

A week after Secret Service Director Julia Pierson resigned amid multiple reports of breaches in White House security, congressional watchdogs are asking whether the Secret Service agency needs more than just mild reform. Among the more drastic proposals are shrinking its mandate to just protecting the president and removing it from within the Department of Homeland Security.

The latter move could brighten the spirits of the agency’s 6,500 employees by removing it from a department that has struggled from its inception after 9/11. But they’re likely to be less enthusiastic about splitting the Secret Service’s dual mission of combating counterfeiting and protecting current and former presidents, vice presidents and visiting heads of state.

“Long-term, the 60,000 foot view, there are some who are very critical of the switch that the Secret Service went through after 9/11,” says Utah Republican Rep. Jason Chaffetz, a top member of the House Oversight Committee. “That seems to have changed the dynamic and made it much more political as opposed to security-driven. And I think long-term that’s something we might explore is the structure of having it within Homeland Security.”

Virginia Democratic Rep. Gerry Connolly, another member of the House Oversight Committee, agrees that moving the Secret Service from DHS is a debate worth having. Connolly believes there is a morale problem at the Secret Service, citing the Partnership for Public Service’s 2013 study on the best places to work in the federal government. In the report, the Secret Service ranked 226 out of 300 agency subcomponents. The Department of Homeland Security ranked last—19th—of large agencies.

“I think the counterfeiting role really probably belongs in Treasury,” says Connolly. “The protection and investigation role I think might make sense in DHS but I do think we have to have a thorough review about the missions and whether they continue to make sense. Are they compatible? Do they detract from one another?”

Some Congressmen and former Secret Service agents believe that other, relatively minor reforms—like increasing funding to boost personnel levels—would help solve the cultural problems plaguing the turnover-ridden agency. Department of Homeland Security Jeh Johnson has pushed back on the idea of spinning off the Secret Service to another agency, and has established internal and external investigations to examine potential reforms. House Homeland Security Chairman Michael McCaul believes that the Secret Service will “regain the trust” of the country by implementing the new independent commission’s recommendations.

“The first step to correcting the deficiencies at the Secret Service is to conduct a comprehensive, top-to-bottom independent review—before we start discussing other options,” says McCaul. “The Secret Service is a law enforcement and protection service organization, with missions concerning everything from protecting the first family to cybersecurity. Because of this, its missions complement the missions of DHS.”

Some former Secret Service agents agree that there are less drastic, but still effective alternatives to finding the Secret Service agency a new home.

“I don’t know if moving it out of DHS [would work],” says Mickey Nelson, a 28 year-veteran of the Secret Service who retired in 2012. “Then where would you move it, logically speaking? But I think that should be part of the review.”

“I do think the Service could use some additional funding and resources and I think that will be the central focus of the committee and the review,” he adds. “Look at the current training. Look at the way they’re aligned. I think the Secret Service will quite frankly welcome that.”

“I think the agency needs to look at manpower, staffing, cultural issues, try to restore or insure consistency between the agency’s mission and its day to day practices,” says Sam Shaus, a former Secret Service special agent who now sits on the St. Louis University Criminal Justice and Security Management Industry Advisory Board. “I think all of those things need to be looked at before any dramatic change that might involve removing the agency from the Department of Homeland Security or redefining its mission.”

“I think one of the dangers could be to try to initiate too many moving parts as a solution initially,” he adds.

TIME White House

Meet the New Boss of the President’s Protectors

From routine business on Capitol Hill to planning President Barack Obama's surprise trip to Baghdad, go behind the scenes with Joe Clancy, the new interim director of the Secret Service

Joe Clancy, the newly appointed interim director of the U.S. Secret Service, has protected three Presidents in his career, but now faces his toughest challenge yet: restoring the public’s—and the commander in chief’s—trust in the agency responsible with his life.

Even before Secret Service Director Julia Pierson submitted her resignation Wednesday, Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson had reached out to Clancy, 58, most recently the director of corporate security at telecom-giant Comcast, about taking the job. He retired from the Secret Service in 2011 as head of the Presidential Protective Division (PDD), the corps of presidential bodyguards responsible for the president’s security around the clock.

After several high-profile security incidents, Clancy will be under intense pressure to keep the agency out of the news, as multiple congressional and Department of Homeland Security probes examine where the agency went wrong and where it must go from here. Obama is not expected to select a permanent replacement for Pierson until those reviews are completed later this year.

Clancy will be a familiar face to President Barack Obama and his family, having led the presidential detail during his first years in office.

TIME Congress

Top Lawmakers Demand Independent Review of Secret Service

Members of the US Secret Service arrive to escort President Barack Obama on a trip at Andrews Air Force Base on Oct. 1, 2014 in Maryland.
Members of the US Secret Service arrive to escort President Barack Obama on a trip at Andrews Air Force Base on Oct. 1, 2014 in Maryland. Brendan Smilowski—AFP/Getty Images

After the agency's director stepped down following security lapses

The top Republican and Democrat on the House’s government watchdog panel asked Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson Friday to conduct a comprehensive external review of the Secret Service, which has been rocked by recent White House security failures leading to the resignation of former Director Julia Pierson.

Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) and Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-Md.), the chairman and ranking member of the House Oversight Committee respectively, wrote a joint letter to Johnson saying that Pierson’s resignation “by no means resolves” the questions they have regarding the agency. They asked the investigation to go “well beyond” the September 19 incident, in which 42 year-old Iraq veteran Omar Gonzalez jumped over the White House fence and ran into the President’s mansion wielding a knife.

“The panel should review not only recent security lapses, but the full range of management, personnel, training, and cultural issues that contribute to the root causes of these security failures,” wrote Issa and Cummings. “The panel should examine the process by which the Secret Service communicates with Congress, the press, the American people, and the President himself, to ensure that information the agency provides is accurate and timely.”

After Pierson resigned Wednesday following a brutal congressional hearing before the Oversight committee on Tuesday, Johnson announced that Deputy Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas would lead an internal review of the Secret Service. He also said that another panel of independent experts would be created to submit by mid-December a list of potential new directors and recommendations for reforming White House security procedures. In the interim, Johnson has named Secret Service veteran Joseph Clancy as acting Director.

TIME White House

Secret Service Has ‘Elevator Manifest’ for Every Presidential Trip

Barack Obama Elevator
President Barack Obama, during his candidacy in 2008, is surrounded by Secret Service agents as he boards an elevator at his hotel in Berlin, July 24, 2008. Jim Young—Reuters

Raising new questions for the Secret Service on how an armed contractor got within arm's length of Obama

When the President travels nothing is taken for granted, not even the co-occupants of the presidential elevator, raising new questions about how an armed man with a criminal history managed to get within arm’s length of President Barack Obama last month.

A week before every presidential trip—often longer for foreign travel—”advance” teams from the U.S. Secret Service, the White House, and other government agencies trace every step the president will take, as well as alternates for every contingency. Plans are drawn up for who will sit where on Air Force One and which vehicle in the President’s mile-long motorcade aides will occupy, according to multiple individuals familiar with presidential travel, including law enforcement personnel.

Officials said the manifests are largely logistical in nature, devised to clear up which aides will travel with the president and “the shift,” the personal detail assigned to him. “There may be 35 people with him in a freight elevator in a sporting arena, or just a few in a cramped one in an old-school Chicago high rise,” one veteran said. Other aides, members of the press, and additional Secret Service agents will be shuttled in other marked elevators or will take the stairs, depending on the site. Occasionally a space for an “elevator operator” is reserved, especially when the president is set to move in a freight elevator, but often they are not named on the manifest.

“Elevator manifests are a standard procedure,” said a law enforcement official, citing the logistical challenge of moving the president, his aides, his bodyguards, and the traveling press without a hitch. Which is another reason the Secret Service will remain in the sights of Congressional overseers even after Wednesday’s announced resignation by Julia Pierson, the agency’s beleaguered director.

A private contractor at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta boarded the presidential elevator on Sept. 16 and wouldn’t heed orders to stop photographing Obama. Agents pulled the man aside for questioning after Obama left the elevator, at which point the man’s supervisor fired him on the spot for his behavior. It was only then that officers discovered that the man, who was arrested several times, was carrying a firearm, officials said.

The security breach came days before an armed man leaped over the White House fence and charged past an agent at the North Portico door before being arrested near the Green Room, an incident that prompted renewed public scrutiny for the agency.

White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest said Wednesday that Obama was not informed of the elevator incident until minutes before it was first reported by the Washington Examiner on Tuesday afternoon. Congressional sources said outgoing Secret Service Director Julia Pierson did not mention the security lapse in her classified testimony to lawmakers Tuesday, despite being asked whether there were any undisclosed security incidents that she was aware of. Pierson tendered her resignation Wednesday after losing the support of Obama and Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson. “The President concluded that new leadership of that agency was required,” Earnest said.

Whether the still-unidentified individual was named on the manifest, was unnamed, or had simply managed to enter the elevator with the president is one subject of the ongoing internal probe into the incident. Either way, officials said, the man should not have been able to carry the weapon that close to the President. The Secret Service would not comment on the status of the ongoing investigation.

With reporting by Alex Rogers / Washington

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