This is what happens when the Secret Service invites people to try by not doing their job.
Two embarrassing near back-to-back lapses have plagued the normally square-jawed U.S. Secret Service since President Trump took office. A laptop containing highly sensitive data including floor plans of Trump Tower and files on the pope was stolen from an agent’s vehicle in New York City. And it was revealed that last week, a man spent nearly 17 minutes roaming the White House grounds after jumping the fence before he was apprehended.
This adds to the last embarrassment when the agent-in-charge of the agency’s Denver district wrote that she would endure “jail time” rather than “taking a bullet” for Trump–a clear violation of the Hatch Act.
The Secret Service is not bullet-proof, of course. During the Obama administration, agents were caught with their pants down, figuratively, soliciting both male and female prostitutes in places like Columbia and Puerto Rico.
Every agency where testosterone is the office currency and travel is part of the culture has those kinds of problems. “What goes TDY, stays TDY” is a nearly-unbreakable military mantra for that very reason–although there’s always the chance of getting caught. But at protecting the president and White House, the USSS’s record is pretty good.
The White House itself has only been breached by an intruder four times since 1912. Two of those incidents happened during Obama’s terms. In 2009, uninvited guests Michaele and Tareq Salahi talked their way into a state dinner with the prime minister of India; in 2014, Omar Gonzalez jumped the fence, ran through the North Portico and overpowered a Secret Service officer before he was apprehended.
But it seems that 26-year-old Jonathan T. Tran’s time spent on the grounds a week ago Friday outdoes many of the other breaches. In fact, someone is probably going to get fired for the lapse, which happened while Trump was in residence, as CBS News’ Jeff Pegues tweeted.
Congress is concerned that the president’s protectors are losing their edge.
“I worry this is the worst one yet,” Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah) said in an interview. “The time on the White House grounds really concerns me. With the president in the White House the intruder was evidently able to hide behind a pillar and get to a door undetected. The problem has persisted for years and is totally unacceptable. It scares me.”
In a letter sent to Acting U.S. Secret Service Director William J. Callahan before the Secret Service released its new timeline of events, Chaffetz, chairman of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, said his panel had received potentially troubling allegations about undisclosed breakdowns.
The items Tran was carrying seem particularly worrisome, in this age of “fake news” and pizza parlor conspiracies.
- 2 cans of Mace (which gives his felony a mandatory 10-year sentence)
- a U.S. passport (of course, why not bring ID?)
- a laptop computer containing a letter to Trump claiming Tran had “information of relevance” about Russian hackers
The laptop theft may turn out to be a worse lapse.
The Secret Service claims that the hard drive on the laptop was encrypted, but it appears that access cards were also stolen, which could help access the data. If the laptop were to access the Internet, agents could remotely wipe it. According to POLITICO, the thief also stole a set of lapel pins that grant agents entry to security perimeters around protected individuals, a secure encrypted two-way radio and a the agent’s personal laptop.
If this was just a random theft from an agent’s vehicle at a Brooklyn home, the devices will almost certainly turn up…or likely wash up from the East River. No thief in his right mind would try to fence that laptop or anything so high profile. But what if it wasn’t a random theft? This is what is probably keeping agents and intelligence analysts up all night.
The possibility this could be a black bag job by a foreign government or well-financed criminal ring has to be zinging around in their heads.
Obviously, there’s a problem here. Trump, by his own actions, is a magnet for nutcases from the left and the right. The USSS has to get back on the ball.