NEWS

Secret Service Security Defeated Almost 100 Times Since 1980

By Matthew Harwood

The Secret Service has had its security defeated 91 times since 1980, according to interviews and a secret 2003 report obtained by The Washington Post.

Nearly three decades worth of security breaches have been revealed after a fame-seeking couple made it past layers of Secret Service security to meet President Obama at his first state dinner just before Thanksgiving.

The Post reports that Tareq and Michaele Salahi are now on the shortlist of other intruders that have made it up close and personal with the president or someone else under Secret Service protection.

The historical list of perimeter breaches indicates that intruders have reached the president or another person under Secret Service protection eight times since 1980, including the Salihis. Four of the incidents involved the same man.

The summary paints a disturbing picture of how difficult it is to stop determined intruders -- often mentally ill -- even as it notes that violent or commando-style raids have not occurred, and that terrorists or organized adversaries are unlikely to risk a head-on attack.

Then-Director Brian Stafford commissioned the review in 2001 after the service was humiliated for a third time by the most notorious presidential gate-crasher, Richard C. Weaver, who evaded inauguration security to shake George W. Bush's hand. Weaver, a California minister, had previously infiltrated a 1991 prayer breakfast attended by then-President George H.W. Bush, and Clinton's 1997 inaugural luncheon. He approached the younger Bush again at a prayer breakfast in 2003 before being arrested.

"I believe God makes me invisible to the security, undetectable," Weaver told reporters. The Secret Service concluded that Weaver succeeded by manipulating others to obtain tickets, telling guards he was lost or looking for a restroom, and generally "appearing as [if] you are supposed to be there," as the Salahis apparently did.

The only intruder to harm a president was John W. Hinckley Jr., whose one of six gunshots punctured President Ronald Reagan's lung while outside the Washington Hilton Hotel in Washington, D.C.

The Salihis ability to bypass layers of security during the state dinner worries many Americans, none more than the African American community, reports The Los Angeles Times. During the presidential campaign, then Sen. Obama was put under Secret Service protection earlier than any presidential hopeful in history.

Despite this, the LA Times reports that the Secret Service says that threats made against President Obama are at the same level as those of his predecessors, Presidents Clinton and Bush.


♦ Photo by The White House/Flickr

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