‘This just keeps happening’: Secret Service under investigation over more breaches
Jonathan Tran, 26, scaled several fences at the White House and went undetected on the grounds for more than 15 minutes before the US Secret Service (USSS) was able to apprehend him on March 10.
The USSS released a statement in the days following, saying that Tran was able to climb and hop a 5-foot fence near the US Treasury Department next to the White House, then he scaled an 8-foot vehicle gate and another a three-and-a-half foot fence near the East Wing.
“The men and women of the Secret Service are extremely disappointed and angry in how the events of March 10th transpired,” the statement said. The agency said they are taking steps to prevent future breaches, including creating additional posts, implementing technology enhancements and new response protocols.
In an interview with Wolf Blitzer on CNN’s “The Situation Room” on March 17, House Oversight Committee Chairman Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah) said that Tran was even "able to get up next to the White House, hide behind a pillar, look through a window, rattle the door handle."
“It's just beyond comprehension,” Chaffetz said, “especially because it is not the first time this has happened.”
Last year, Chaffetz faced retaliation while looking into the Secret Service after two of its agents drove through an active bomb threat scene investigation. Dozens of agents, including 11 senior members, gained unauthorized access to Chaffetz’s own rejected 2003 application to the agency and leaked it to the press. The Department of Homeland Security ended up punishing 57 Secret Service agents over the violations.
The recent breach prompted Chaffetz to send a letter to William Callahan, the acting director of the Secret Service, saying his committee will investigate the service. In the letter, Chaffetz, who is on the panel that oversees the service, questioned the agency’s security and requested surveillance videos from the recent breaches to ensure they would be preserved for upcoming investigations.
The letter suggests that several allegations were not in the original affidavit from the Secret Service, including the fact that Tran triggered several alarms which were ignored, and “may have attempted entry into the building.”
"If true, these allegations raise questions about whether the agency's security protocols are adequate," Chaffetz wrote.
The letter mentions a bipartisan report from the committee, which found that "Over the last 10 years, there have been 143 security breaches and attempted security breaches at secured facilities which resulted in an arrest."
“This just keeps happening - again, and again, and again,” Chaffetz said in an interview with Fox and Friends, where he promised that “major structural changes” will take place at the agency.
Chaffetz recommended splitting up the Secret Service, with separate teams that would handle cyber missions and protective detail mission.
Chaffetz also said that there is a bipartisan group exploring the idea of moving the Secret Service into the Treasury department, where it was before the Department of Homeland Security took over that function in 2003.
This is the third time the White House has been breached in an eight-day period.
On Saturday, William Rawlinson, 58, was spotted in a prohibited area of the North Lawn of the White House at around 12:40pm. Police say they found Rawlinson behind an auxiliary security barrier that resembles a bicycle rack, yelling “nonsensical statements,” according to the Washington Post.
That same day, Sean Keoughan, 29, was arrested after he drove up to a White House checkpoint in a car that was reported stolen in Virginia and told a Secret Service officer that “there’s a bomb in the trunk” while holding something in his right hand, according to Reuters.
The Secret Service has also been in the news recently after an agent had a laptop with sensitive information stolen from their vehicle, and two agents are currently under investigation for leaving their post to take selfies with President Donald Trump’s grandson.