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Recent hearings on the Secret Service by the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee proved entertaining and educational. For example, in 2011 someone had fired shots at the White House but Secret Service bosses wrote this off as a car backfiring, rather unlikely since all cars now have fuel injection. And even with carburetors, multiple backfires were rare. Turns out that the shots did indeed hit the White House, but a housekeeper, untrained in security matters, found evidence of the attack days before the Secret Service. Legislators got the full story from the Washington Post, not the federal government.
More recently, a veteran jumped the fence and gained entry to the White House through the unlocked front door. Secret Service bosses said he didn’t get far, but it turned out he did, all the way to the Green Room. They said he wasn’t armed, but it turned out he was. Legislators grilled Secret Service boss Julia Pierson about these and other lapses. Rep. Trey Gowdy (R-SC) wondered how much it would cost to lock the front door.
Viewers may have wondered how the singularly unimpressive Pierson got the job in the first place, but she had mastered the bureaucratic dialect. Mistakes had been made, she said. And of course, it wouldn’t happen again. Pierson should have been fired long ago but was allowed to resign instead. As columnist Dana Milbank observed, she “made it look as if Secret Service secrecy is not meant to protect the president’s life but to protect an arrogant agency from embarrassment and reform.” That is a major dynamic in Washington, where arrogant agencies abound. Bureaucratic bosses often fail at their appointed tasks, abuse taxpayers, and do all in their power to stop reforms.
During the hearing Rep. John Mica (R-FL) displayed a sign of the ADT security firm and suggested that the Secret Service hire that company. This was more than a theatrical gesture for the cameras. In the recent case, the White House would clearly have been more secure with ADT than Pierson’s open-door security plan. Taxpayers, meanwhile, would also be better off with private security, private health care, and private education.