WASHINGTON — With the Secret Service under intense congressional scrutiny for a series of security breaches, Rep. John Mica (R-Fla.) had a suggestion Tuesday: an off-the-rack home security system for the White House.
In the latest incursion, a man jumped the White House fence earlier this month, and managed to get deep inside the buildingbefore being tackled. But in a hearing of the House Oversight Committee, Mica pointed to another revelation that, in 2011, the Secret Service didn’t realize the president’s home had been struck by bullets until a housekeeper found broken glass. After investigating the incident, the Secret Service incorrectly determined the shots were a backfiring vehicle.
Mica said he was perplexed that the Secret Service could miss things that even his own alarm system at home would have detected.
“It’s a simple thing. If someone opens a window, or a window is broken at my house, I have an alarm,” Mica told Julia Pierson, director of the Secret Service, who was testifying before the committee. The congressman then held up a sign for the alarm company ADT. “Have you ever heard of these guys? It is not very costly. You can subscribe. That can be installed.”
Pierson did not respond as Mica went on to suggest other ideas for security barriers.
“We could put some vegetation barriers, simple things like, how about Spanish bayonet?” Mica said, referring to a prickly foliage that grows well in his home state of Florida. “You jump that fence and you get quite a greeting when you hit the ground.”
During Tuesday’s hearing, lawmakers offered various other suggestions for improving security, including dealing with morale problems and and improving training.
Perhaps the most eyebrow-raising suggestion came from Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah), who implied that he wanted Secret Service officers to be faster to use their weapons in case a fence-jumper was armed with some sort of explosive.
“I think it’s confusing. This is part of what they have to deal with. They’re making split-second decisions. I wanted to be crystal clear — you make a dash to the White House, we are going to take you down. I want overwhelming force. Do you disagree with me?”
Pierson answered that agents were trained in observing and evaluating threats, and responding proportionately.
“I want officers and agents to exercise appropriate force,” she said.
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