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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on September 30th, 2014
by Pincas Jawetz (pj@sustainabilitank.info)

We do not assume for a moment that we know the facts – this like when most patriotic Americans were stuck with the Joe McCarthy hearings. Most important – What were the convictions mentioned here? Not all convictions in the USA are born equal – who knows? Some might be badges of honor!! It would be interesting to find out!


Politics: Armed contractor with criminal record was on elevator with Obama in Atlanta.

By Carol D. Leonnig September 30, 2014 – THE WASHINGTON POST.


There were some heated moments Tuesday when Secret Service Director Julia Pierson testified before the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee about two security breaches at the White House, one in 2011 and one less than two weeks ago. (The Washington Post)

A security contractor with a gun and three prior convictions for assault and battery was allowed on an elevator with President Obama during a Sept. 16 trip to Atlanta, violating Secret Service protocols, according to three people familiar with the incident.

The incident occurred as Obama appeared at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to discuss the U.S. response to the Ebola crisis.

The contractor did not comply when Secret Service agents asked him to stop using a phone camera to videotape the president in the elevator, according to the people familiar with the incident.

Agents questioned him, and used a database check to learn of his criminal history.

When a supervisor from the private security firm approached and learned of the agents’ concern, the contractor was fired on the spot and agreed to turn over his gun — surprising agents, who had not realized he was armed during his encounter with Obama.

Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah) said he was appalled when whistleblowers came forward to him with this account. The Washington Post confirmed details of the event with other people familiar with the review.

“You have a convicted felon within arms reach of the president and they never did a background check,” Chaffetz said. “Words aren’t strong enough for the outrage I feel for the safety of the President and his family. “

Elements of the breach were first reported Tuesday afternoon by the Washington Examiner.



Chaffetz added: “His life was in danger. This country would be a different world today if he had pulled out his gun.”

It is the latest in a string of embarrassments for the Secret Service, whose director, Pierson, drew criticism Tuesday from lawmakers in both parties during a combative hearing that focused on her agency’s security lapses. The hearing focused on a man who was able to foil Secret Service officers by jumping the White House fence Sept. 19 and also a 2011 shooting at the residence that the Secret Service failed to identify and properly investigate.

The elevator incident exposed another serious breakdown in the Secret Service’s safety protocols: this one meant to keep the president safe from strangers when he travels to events outside the White House. In close quarters or small events, when the president is on the road, all of the people who could have access to him must be checked in advance for weapons and any criminal history.

In response to a question at the hearing Tuesday, Pierson said she briefs the president “100 percent of the time” when his personal security has been breached. However, she said Tuesday that has only happened one time this year: Soon after Omar Gonzalez jumped over the White House fence Sept. 19 and was able to burst into the mansion.

A Secret Service spokesman said the agency would provide a response soon.

Some elements of the Atlanta incident were first reported Tuesday afternoon on the Washington Examiner’s Web site.

Under a security program called the Arm’s Reach Program, Secret Service advance staff run potential staff, contractors, hotel employees, invited guests and volunteers through several databases, including a national criminal information registry, and records kept by the CIA, NSA and Department of Defense, among others. Anyone who is found to have a criminal history, mental illness, or other indications of risk is barred from entry.

Local police and federal officers are not checked in the same way under the Arm’s Reach Program, with the Secret Service presuming they meet the safety standards because of their employment. But private security contractors would be checked, two former agents who worked on advance planning for presidential trips said.

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REALLY?

Politics | News Analysis
Showing Concern for the President, Even While Criticizing Him

By PETER BAKER SEPT. 30, 2014

WASHINGTON — President Obama must be touched by all the concern Republicans are showing him these days. As Congress examines security breaches at the White House, even opposition lawmakers who have spent the last six years fighting his every initiative have expressed deep worry for his security.

“The American people want to know: Is the president safe?” Representative Darrell Issa of California, the Republican committee chairman who has made it his mission to investigate all sorts of Obama administration missteps, solemnly intoned as he opened a hearing into the lapses on Tuesday.
Continue reading the main story

Yet it would not be all that surprising if Mr. Obama were a little wary of all the professed sympathy. Although the target of the legislative scrutiny is the Secret Service, not the president, the furor over security has left the White House on the defensive. At Tuesday’s Capitol Hill hearing and at the daily White House news briefing, the questions fueled an air of scandal: Who knew what when, and was there a cover-up?

Democrats joined in the grilling, and some were as tough as or tougher than any Republican on the Secret Service director, Julia Pierson. . But privately, some Democratic officeholders and strategists have complained that the episode contributes to a broader impression that the Obama administration’s competence has come under fire on a variety of fronts, including last year’s botched rollout of Mr. Obama’s health care program, the breakdown of services at the Veterans Affairs Department and the handling of a series of international crises.

Coming just weeks before midterm elections, they said, the intense focus on the matter might further undercut confidence in the government Mr. Obama runs even though it was hardly his fault an intruder with a knife made it into the White House.

“This is an opportunity to make it seem like nobody’s in charge in the Obama administration, even though it’s almost certainly not the case that political appointees could have done anything to change the facts in this situation,” said Matt Bennett, a White House aide under President Bill Clinton and now vice president of Third Way, a political group. “I’m not surprised that they’re doing this.”

Like other Democrats, Mr. Bennett said Congress had a duty to exercise oversight over the Secret Service and investigate what went wrong, and he said serious questions had been raised in recent days. At the same time, Democrats said, if it happened to damage the perception of the president in the process, Republicans would not object.

“I do think for a lot of Republican congressmen, this is a twofer,” said Erik Smith, a former House Democratic aide and a campaign adviser to Mr. Obama. “The Secret Service may be in the line of fire, but they’re not the only target.”

Not every Democrat sees it that way. Paul Begala, no stranger to partisan warfare as a longtime adviser to Mr. Clinton, said Republican lawmakers were asking the right questions out of genuine concern. “This is totally on the level,” he said. “They’re acting like real human beings and patriotic Americans.”
Continue reading the main story Continue reading the main story
Continue reading the main story

Other Democrats said Republicans had good reason to preserve that impression. “So far there is bipartisan outrage and concern,” said Margie Omero, a strategist for Democratic candidates for nearly 20 years who has studied midterm voters in swing Senate races this year. “But at this time of year, candidates will try just about anything to find an opening. It could definitely backfire if Republicans look like they’re making political hay out of a threat to the president’s life.”

Republicans rejected the notion that their inquiry had any political implications. “This is not a Republican issue or a Democrat issue,” said Representative Jason Chaffetz of Utah, chairman of a subcommittee looking into the episode. “This is an American issue. I don’t want it to be the political football, but we in the United States of America are self-critical. It’s one of the beauties of our nation is we do hold ourselves accountable.”

And they were aided by the tough statements voiced at Tuesday’s hearing by several of the committee’s Democrats, who told Ms. Pierson that they did not have faith in her leadership and accused her of caring more about protecting her reputation than the president’s life.

While the director of the Secret Service is appointed by the president, the White House under either party typically defers to the agency on how to handle the president’s security. Even when a president is angry at missteps — as reports suggest Mr. Obama was after a 2011 shooting at the White House when one of his daughters was home — he rarely expresses that publicly. For one, it might come across as impolitic. For another, it might offend the very people a president depends on most.

So even though Mr. Obama had nothing to do with the various problems involving his security beyond appointing Ms. Pierson last year, his White House now finds itself in the position of defending the Secret Service to a degree.

At his daily briefing on Tuesday, Josh Earnest, the White House press secretary, was buffeted with sharp questions about when the president found out about the intruder and whether the Secret Service had been candid in describing that incident and others. While acknowledging concerns over the incident, Mr. Earnest gave Ms. Pierson an endorsement at a time when some critics are calling for her resignation.

“What we saw was a willingness that she demonstrated in testifying before Congress under oath on live television today, a commitment to leading an agency with a very difficult mission,” he told reporters. “She is somebody who took responsibility for the incident that occurred about 10 days ago. She also took responsibility for ensuring that the necessary reforms were implemented to ensure it never happens again. That is a sign of leadership.”

And that is a conclusion that Republicans can disagree with, all with Mr. Obama’s interests at heart.

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