A veteran reporter inferred in a piece Wednesday that the American people might be partially responsible for the lack of White House security that enabled Omar Gonzalez to gain access to the East Room of the White House.
Ron Elving, Senior Washington Editor for National Public Radio (NPR) suggested in the article, entitled “The White House Could Be Made a Fortress, But Should It Be?”, that the reason the White House’s security was not airtight was because “we don’t want it to be.” He notes that Secret Service agents are trained and willing to protect the president and his family, and are willing to kill bad people to save good people. Elving continues:
“But are they equally prepared to do either of those things for the White House itself? Should it be policy for the armed agents around 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue to use deadly force whether the president or his family is present or not?
“Most Americans see the White House as a symbol of the nation, like the Capitol or the flag. Most do not realize how exposed the physical reality of that symbol is, situated in the center of a major urban metropolis with an antiquated security fence just yards from the front door.”
Gonzalez, an Iraq War veteran with a history of post-traumatic stress disorder, got as far as the White House’s East Room. Initial reports by the Secret Service suggested he only got as far as the mansion’s main entry. Elving suggested what would happen should the Secret Service decide to electrify the fence:
“It is also surely possible to electrify the fence or its immediate vicinity, but that would very likely lead to incidents of an unpleasant nature — and all the predictable reaction in the media and beyond.
“In either event, the Secret Service would be pilloried as either inept or trigger-happy. The president would be portrayed as besieged, unfeeling, remote. Even the signs on the fence warning of lethal consequences would be a ghastly image.”
Elving continues, giving his viewpoint on what would have happened if Secret Service agents shot Gonzalez on site:
“Yes, the agents could have shot him. They also could have released trained dogs that might have taken him down. But that would have meant an ugly story about the treatment of a man carrying nothing more threatening than a knife, as was noted at the hearing by former Secret Service Director W. Ralph Basham.”
Photo Credit: Brook Ward (Flickr)
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