Secret Service Credited for Progress Just as White House Fence Was Breached

Timing of watchdog report on two years of improvements was not planned.

Last Friday, the Homeland Security Department’s inspector general released a summary of a classified report crediting the Secret Service with progress in improving White House security techniques in response to a disturbing 2014 fence-jumping incident.

What was odd about the March 16, 2017, report from Inspector General John Roth to deputy Secret Service director William Callahan was its release within days of yet another breach of the White House perimeter. On March 10, a 26-year-old Californian named Jonathan Tuan-Anh Tran invaded the yard of the executive mansion and was undetected for 17 minutes, it was revealed a week later.

The new IG report addressed classified vulnerabilities at the White House and “reviewed changes made by the Secret Service to equipment, technology and operations in response” to earlier recommendations from a DHS Protective Mission Panel. “In its response to this report, the Secret Service reiterated its agreement with our conclusion…that implementing many of the recommendations will depend on staff increases, sustained funding and a multi-year commitment by Secret Service and department leadership to ensure actions continue even during times of increased protective mission demands and unexpected priorities.”

Asked about the timing, a DHS IG spokeswoman told Government Executive, “We do not time our report releases to any media reports,” adding that drafts are shown in advance of release to the Secret Service, the department and Congress.

Ronald Kessler, an investigative journalist and author who has written books critical of the Secret Service said, “The report addresses a limited problem: the complete failure of the Secret Service to protect the White House with high-tech intrusion devices and other security technology provided by the national laboratories to federal nuclear facilities." 

"Obviously, the steps taken by the Secret Service and praised by the IG are totally useless,” he said, “given the fact that Jonathan Tuan-Anh Tran was able to scale the White House fence and roam around the grounds and peer in White House windows while armed with Mace for 17 minutes before a Secret Service Uniformed Division officer happened to notice him and apprehend him.”