Rarely have we witnessed such a barrage of organizational failures that threatened the fundamental security of the United States.
From the Secret Service blunders to the botching of an effective response with the first case of Ebola in the United States to the military advances of ISIS, the federal government has repeatedly dropped the ball, acutely reducing our protective structures to a state of life-threatening disarray.
With Ebola, a recent headline on a USA Today article summed up the absence of a coordinated national strategy: "U.S. lacks a single standard for Ebola response."
Regarding presidential security, a knife-carrying intruder on September 19, Omar Gonzalez, scaled the White House fence, ran across the north lawn and burst into the executive mansion through the unlocked front door, knocking down a Secret Service guard who was attempting to manually lock the door, and ran into the East Room before he was brought down by an off-duty agent who happened to be in the White House.
President Obama and his daughters left the White House 10 minutes before the intruder ran past the stairwell that leads to the first family’s residence.
Gonzalez, a decorated Iraq war veteran reportedly suffering from PTSD, retired from the Army on disability in 2012. The knife he was carrying during his intrusion into the White House had a three-and-a-half inch serrated blade. In his car, parked a few blocks from the White House, authorities found 800 rounds of ammunition, two hatchets and a machete.
Two months before he jumped the White House fence, Gonzalez was arrested in Virginia and charged with reckless driving, eluding police, and possession of a sawed-off shotgun and sniper rifles. Police inventoried 11 guns in his vehicle, along with a map, tucked in a Bible, with the White House circled.
Additionally, three weeks before his fence scaling, Gonzalez was stopped while walking along the White House fence with a hatchet.
Secret Service Director Julia Pierson, now resigned, disclosed in Congressional testimony, as reported by the Washington Post, "that shortly before the intruder jumped the fence at least two of her uniformed officers recognized him from an earlier troubling encounter but did not approach him or report his presence to superiors."
Three days before Gonzalez’s incursion at the White House, a security contractor with a gun and three convictions for assault and battery was allowed on an elevator with President Obama and his security agents in Atlanta at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The contractor aroused concerns among the security agents when he didn’t comply with their orders to stop using a cellphone camera in the elevator to film Obama.
Following his immediate firing, the contractor turned over his gun, reported the Post, "surprising agents who had not realized that he was armed during his encounter with Obama."
These blunders aren’t new.
At the Nelson Mandela memorial in 2013, a fake sign language interpreter, Thamsanqa Jantjie, took the stage for hours, performing gibberish in close proximity to several world leaders, including President Obama.
"The Secret Service failed to catch the murder, rape and kidnapping charges belonging to fake interpreter Thamsanqa Jantjie," reported Katie Pavlich, news editor at Townhall.com.
Jantjie later said he suffered a schizophrenic episode at the memorial: "What happened that day, I see angels come to the stadium. I start realizing that the problem is here. And the problem, I don’t know the attack of this problem, how it will come. Sometimes I get violent on that place. Sometimes I see things chasing me."
This is national security?
Ralph R. Reiland is the B. Kenneth Simon professor of free enterprise and an associated professor of economics at Robert Morris University in Pittsburgh.
Ralph R. Reiland