The President and Travel Security

Few people travel as much as the President of the United States. It is just part of his job as he visits domestic cities and foreign dignitaries all over the world. Frankly it has been kind of shocking to hear about so many security lapses from the Secret Service, particularly since I have experienced a Presidential visit before.

In my experience, the Secret Service was extremely proactive in their protection. They were kind and polite but also very diligent. Everyone seemed comfortable accepting these minor inconveniences in exchange for an opportunity to share a hotel with the President. Of course, there were no compromises or threats to him (that we knew of) and everything worked just as it was supposed to.

Given this, how can his security lapse so much so quickly? Seriously, an armed man with previous convictions was never vetted by the Secret Service before he was allowed to enter an elevator with the President while on a trip to Atlanta?

I don’t know if this is better or worse than the man who climbed over the protective White House fence, sprinted across the lawn, walked in the front door, and got all the way to the East Wing before he was stopped. Whenever I am traveling, I always keep the front door locked and the alarm system set. Is there a reason they can’t do this at the White House?

And recently, the full story was reported about a 2011 incident where multiple shots were fired at the White House from along the South Lawn side.

But there’s even more. The Washington Post assembled a timeline of events of all the Secret Service mistakes covering President Obama’s time in office. While it is not particularly surprising that this President has faced three times as many threats as previous administrations, it is quite disturbing that this elite agency has fallen down in so many ways.

My husband and kids like to quibble over the possibility that events portrayed in movies like Olympus Has Fallen and White House Down could or could not happen. My husband takes the side that it is impossible. Given these extraordinary revelations, now he wonders if all it would take is an armed grandmother driving through the White House gate, walking into the White House, and going upstairs to the Oval Office to find the President.

I hope all of us think about safety and security when traveling, whether a different city or another country. As I mentioned in my book, there are some tips all of us can do to protect ourselves. Maybe the Secret Service needs to review some of these things because no one ever wants to hear about a Presidential assassination.

I have no doubt most agents of the Secret Service – maybe all of them – would be willing to take a bullet for the President. But with so many events like this, it may be only a matter of time before one of them really needs to. Now faced with searching for his third person to run the Secret Service, the President of the United States, regardless of political party, deserves better from the agency charged with protecting him.

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