Getting Inside the White House. Who Knew it was this Easy?

33

September 30, 2014 by gregrabidoux2013

White House

So, my family wanted to visit the White House about 2 years ago. No problem I said. I work in DC, gosh, I even used to walk literally right past the front Gate of the White House every week day on my way to the office on the 1700 block of H Street.

This should be a snap especially for a DC big shot like me.

Big black gate, lots of people always milling about, the Blair House across the street at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, a crazy guy in a makeshift shanty always screaming from the park sidewalk, yep, I know the place well. I even exchange friendly hello waves  with one of the guards. No joke.

This oughta be a breeze.

“Not so fast,” I am told by some WH intern who sounds like he should be a Hall Monitor for his 6th grade class (actually, he probably was). “No,” he informs me, security is airtight since September 11th. “You just don’t waltz in to the White House,” he explains. The best bet I have, I am informed, if I actually want to see more than a few of the public rooms at the WH is to go through my US Congressman or woman and get on a waiting list for VIP tickets.

White house ralphie

Now he seems to take his security job seriously

Obviously, this junior G-Man and super-stickler for details who no doubt awaits the sprouting of his first whisker was not even impressed by my unsolicited disclosure that I had actually been into the White House just a month or so prior (yep, I had). That was for a very important meeting (though they whisked me and my party into the conference room and didn’t even make the president available to us just some mid-level WH staffers). Still. My mom thinks I am a VIP and that should be good enough for him and his fellow guard-squad.

It wasn’t.

OK. I grudgingly accept this school crossing guard’s standard “You are no one important enough” answer and decide to follow SOP at least this one time.

“Whoa,” says his twin who answers the Congressman’s phone, “There is a waiting list, a background check and I just don’t know when we can make this happen….!”

In fairness, congressional staffer and aides (and I should know I was one many moons ago) are probably so used to letting voters know they can’t “make it happen” on a wide variety of issues that they just wake up next to their significant other and say that same expression and well that just is no good for anyone.

White House gate

Don’t they know I walk past this gate all the time?

Regardless.

I wasn’t going down without a fight.

After a few calls made, all in the “202” area code (Washington DC) I got a call back from a White House staffer. Now we were getting somewhere.

“I do apologize,” she says (better, this is more like it) “but we are behind on our VIP tours and with the budget cuts (nice partisan move there, dang Congress stopping the President and First Lady from opening up the “People’s House”) we’ve had to cut back on such tours…But let me see what we can do for you.”

barack obama football

OK, how about I just come on over for a game of touch football with the Quarterback-in-chief?

Okay. Take that boy wonder. This is DC, I know people and I know how to use my cell phone so it should be only a matter of time.

And it was. Four days in fact.

When I do get a call back it is from a colleague who starts our conversation by, of all things, laughing. Loud.

He goes on to tell me that lately I’d have better luck in angling another meeting inside the WH than actually getting one of these tours. Budget cuts he says and long waiting lists (yeah, I heard I said). But, good news, I got bumped up the list and I have a date in 6 weeks.

Too bad, I had family coming to visit in 3 weeks. Oh well.

“You just don’t walk into the White House,” my so-called connected friend says.

So, I’ve heard.

But actually, it seems, these days, that is exactly how one gets into the White House.

Maybe the trick is to simply jump over the front White House gate, be wielding a knife, have 7-800 rounds of ammo on you, look deranged (according to a secret service agent) and go right through the front door which by the way was unlocked (!) and get all the way into the East Room of the WH and don’t even get annoyed by loud alarms because for some strange reason those sirens were muted by request of the WH usher service that day.

At least that is what former US Army veteran, Omar Gonzales did recently, and he wasn’t looking to just admire the presidential portraits.

white house OG

Geez, you all let this dude in and he wasn’t even on the VIP waiting list.

Julia Pierson, the Director of the White House Secret Service must be the mistress of the understatement as she told the US House Oversight and Government Reform Committee today, that, “Clearly, our security plan was not executed properly.”

I guess not. Unless, of course, the “plan” was to get our president and his family and who knows who else harmed or even killed.

The Chairman of the Committee, Darrell Issa (R-CA) was also unusually generous and kind when he noted that the Secret Service “may be in a state of decline.”

You think?

Let’s see, the US Secret Service has recently been scandalized by its Agents soliciting and being extorted by prostitutes in Columbia, been fraternizing and drunk on the job for a presidential detail in the Netherlands, recently allowed an armed private contractor (who happened to also be a convicted felon) to rub elbows with Mr. Obama on an elevator and failed to prevent or fully investigate the 2011 shooting at the White House. This last incident resulted in at least 7 shots fired into the upstairs White House residence where the Obama family sleeps. According to one source an Agent on detail said that “it happened all so fast.”

Yeah, assassinations tend not to happen in slow motion.

You don’t hear Jack Bauer of “24” complain about how things are moving so fast he can’t get a shot off at a would-be assassin or how he never gets to “use lethal force.”

white house 24

Let me take over the command. I dare ya.

My fervent hope is that Director Pierson and her staff devise shall we say, a better security plan. Perhaps one that seeks to keep our president and his family safe and not be open to random, deranged, armed gate-jumpers would be nice.

If they need help following procedure and executing SOP I have a former hall monitor and current intern I’d like to recommend.

bengal-tiger-why-matter_7341043

 

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33 thoughts on “Getting Inside the White House. Who Knew it was this Easy?

  1. David B says:

    Uh oh. There is also an article in the AJC this morning about a convicted felon that was carrying a gun while riding the elevator with the president when he was in Atlanta visiting the CDC last month. This doesn’t exactly support the Secret Service’s less than stellar reputation as of late.

    This is a great line directed at Secret Service director Julia Pierson after she defended the agency on Tuesday:

    “‘I wish to God you protected the White House like you protected your reputation here today,’ Rep. Stephen Lynch, D-Mass., told Pierson at a public hearing that was followed by a classified, closed-door briefing.”

    http://www.ajc.com/news/news/national/report-armed-contractor-criminal-record-was-elevat/nhYmD/

  2. David B says:

    Also, how long is the wait list to come over and play touch football with the Quarterback-in-chief these days?

  3. Granger L says:

    I’ve been to DC maybe twice and one time was on a college sponsored trip. This was about 2 years ago. There just seemed like security was everywhere and it blows my mind that some violent dude could make it as far as he did and even got into the White House. What about those snipers you see on the roof, or the guards, or the secret service near the gate, What the (?). Man, if I am scared for the president and his family I wonder what he’s thinking these days. Great post Dr. R!

  4. kabaumgartel says:

    I think that it is crazy that someone was able to even get inside. This just goes to show how many crazy people are out there. It is just odd that the alarms happen to be silent that day and the door was unlocked. I think that there was something going on that we just do not know about.

  5. Sandra K says:

    Pathetic! That’s what this whole incident is-The director should be fired!

  6. Patriot1Peachstate says:

    Well, that’s what you get when you put amateurs in the White House the whole operation goes downhill!

  7. Veronica L says:

    Patriot1Peachstate-you mean like when George W. Bush was in office and 9/11 happened?? C’mon, this isn’t Obama’s fault, his Secret Service screwed up!

  8. Christopher R says:

    While the recent secret service scandals have been embarrassing to read about, this story I feel has more weight than prostitutes or drinking on the job. The recent two events with the president being this close to danger presents some questions. It does seem odd that this individual would be able to make it all the way into the White House before anything happened. I have read that the dogs were not released because “there were so many people running they would not know who to attack” although the footage I have seen does not show a lot of people running. I do wonder though what the response would be if a “shoot first ask questions later” approach was taken. I feel as though the man had absolutely no right to do this, but the spin ability of the media today seems to place many agencies in fault at either way position. Either way, I feel as though this should not have been able to be accomplished at the white house. I too have traveled to DC when our marching band played for the Bush second term inaugural parade. The amount of security was mind blowing. I understand that it was also an event, but even a fraction of the security we had to endure should have been able to prevent this.

  9. While the recent secret service scandals have been embarrassing to read about, this story I feel has more weight than prostitutes or drinking on the job. The recent two events with the president being this close to danger presents some questions. It does seem odd that this individual would be able to make it all the way into the White House before anything happened. I have read that the dogs were not released because “there were so many people running they would not know who to attack” although the footage I have seen does not show a lot of people running. I do wonder though what the response would be if a “shoot first ask questions later” approach was taken. I feel as though the man had absolutely no right to do this, but the spin ability of the media today seems to place many agencies in fault at either way position. Either way, I feel as though this should not have been able to be accomplished at the white house. I too have traveled to DC when our marching band played for the Bush second term inaugural parade. The amount of security was mind blowing. I understand that it was also an event, but even a fraction of the security we had to endure should have been able to prevent this.

  10. Massi M says:

    I am shocked that white house security standard operating procedure (SOP’s) does third check people entering the white, expect as the article explicated hard working minimal threat citizens. The leader of our country should be as advertised, the safest person on the planet, and that include the house he (and his family) lay their heads in. How can the president address the social, economic, and political issues that age their mind and body over a few years of public service, if their watching the front door for knife wielding bandits and felonious subcontractor that must be hot in the elevator?. I am sure that after September 11th, 2001 security was tight as a drum but like all incidents over time lessons are forgotten and people become complacency. Budget shortfalls and staffing I’m sure play a role in the list of mishaps by the United States Secret Service, but it’s difficult to explain away people crashing dignitary functions, security details engaging in prostitution solicitation and intoxication on duty, and failure to lock the front door when ISIS is desperate to execute a terrorist attack on U.S. soil. To the world the house of 1600 Pennsylvania is symbolic for democracy and freedom, but to Americans is stand for much more. Tighten up Secret Service, if a well-connected business in D.C and a hard working pubic servant in Pennsylvania must wait 6 weeks or more for a tour of the “people’s house”, then no one including staff (background checked monthly) should be able to move about with scrutiny.

  11. Brandi S says:

    Well this is news…. I would think before you can step foot on the grounds you must have a escort. Wonder what would have happened if he got even closer to the president. I would also think that you would have to go through a security check. It seems to me either no one was paying attention or he knew someone and they let him pass. But just to say he was in the White House elevators with a gun and he got pass security is just to unreal. Security better step up their game or next time things might not go so well..

  12. Khari L says:

    Once upon a time it was possible for just about anyone to stroll into the president’s home during an open house and partake in drinking. The white house went from a stone wall to a shameless fence that can easily be penetrated. The perimeters for the presidents protection has weakened over the years when I should increase over the past few months national crisis. That man who jumped over the fence made it to the front door before officers could even apprehend. Secret service should have never allowed that man towards that fence. He could have easily had weapons on him or worse an explosive strapped to his body. Obama appointed a female director over the secret service, and her sole responsibility was to restore public confidence in operations. The benchmark took a setback on this day as other countries have seen are weak points. Do not be surprised if we see incidents like this occur again this year.

  13. Your blog post was hilarious. Yes, lots of red tape but the security is really for show. I used to work in Washington and was tapped by my employer to serve as a Pentagon Press Pool Correspondent. My task: make sure Department of Defense news got out in the unlikely event of nuclear war or something like that. I giggle back at the drills the DOD used to conduct at the Pentagon. Anyway, my first visit to the Pentagon was to attend an orientation on my role and responsibilities. I remember taking the METRO train to the Pentagon City stop and then walking to the underground entrance of the Pentagon, where I was met, identified, badged and escorted in. After a several hours of boring stuff, someone came in the room, whispered in this fella’s ear, and then I was asked if I knew how to get back to the main entrance as the meeting was over. Silly me, I said absolutely! So here I am aimlessly wandering in the Pentagon – I was really actually lost – when I came to a courtyard entrance where some military choppers were landing. Pretty cool to watch until someone comes up from behind and starts riddling me with questions. Thanks to a military escort, I quickly found my way back to the main entrance!

    • David-I always feel like I am in a twilight zone world when I take the metro to Crystal City and go “underground.” Someday I’ll share my own story of how I was in the wrong place at the wrong time and was taken way too seriously for having no “malicious intent” regarding a former VP…!

  14. Joshlyn D says:

    Good morning all!

    Hope all is well. There are many different assumptions that we can make on what actually transpired that day, but there is one thing we know for certain; the Secret Service and all of the White House security failed at what they’re specifically assigned to do! There was absolutely no reason Omar Gonzales or any other individual since then should have gotten close or inside the White House. We have to understand when Obama was sworn into office, America was in such a whole that even Captain America would still be fighting to dig the country out. Many might not agree with any of Obama’s policies, the way he handles business, or addresses the public but he is still our President with a family that resides in the White House. We have to learn how to control our emotions and get our message across differently than violence or hateful acts. If Obama and one of his daughters were in a room that Gonzales had passed, no telling what would have happened. Instead of a country upset because the President raised taxes we would have had a country devastated because the President as well as one of his young daughters were single handedly murdered by someone who was able to breach security in the infamous White House.

    Think about it, things could really and actually be worse for America. You dislike the President, VOTE when time comes around. Encourage others to vote. Vote even when the midterm elections are here. Make a difference by setting a positive track, standing up, and speaking out. Not by planning an assassination.

    I think the public should be able to view the White House and meet the President. I also think there should be a strenuous process to pick and choose who gets the privilege. I disagree on how long it takes to set the date as well as get back to the individual who wishes to do such. The doors of the White House should be open to the public after following the proper procedure but locked on a daily basis to protect the first family! All alarms should be engaged at all times because you never know. All personnel that are placed to guard the doors, gate, and halls should always be in place. Incidents like the Gonzales one should not happen!

  15. C. Williamson says:

    I can’t even imagine that it would be this easy to get inside what is supposed to be one of the most secured and protected structures in America. It appears over the years, not including the current President, that the Secret Service has just become to comfortable and not attentive to possible domestic threats. To have this happen more than once, should be a warning shot to the SS that their relax routine is no longer an assurance that the most powerful man in the free world is protected. The realignment of who is in charged is warranted based on the severity of what ifs. We have the capabilities with the SS to insure the White House is secure, by sidestepping the security routines sets up a dangerous platform for any crazy or terrorist.

  16. Jocelyn D says:

    I never imagined it ever being easy to get into the white house no matter what connections you have and it shouldn’t be but as I watch television some days they create movies were there are attacks at the white house or some kind of scandal. Sometimes when things come out I believe that they can be true such as the agents being drunk and ordering prostitutes and things of that sort and I get we are all human and we are all entitled to mistakes made but that is your duty is to protect the president. I feel that the better they do their Job in a more ethical matter and the better our security is the more people that can come see the White House and not be on a six week long waiting especially if you have connections and you have been in there before.

  17. pycarter says:

    I have never seen such incompetence in the highest level of law enforcement whose top and only priority is keeping the President of the United States safe at all times.There is no excuse for any of the incidence of complete incompetence in securing the President.Now they shot off how many rounds and killed the mother who was driving away from the White House but they couldn’t manage to shot an armed and dangerous intruder who jumped the fence with his weapons and entered the White House! Was it the government shutdown or the sequesterian that caused the backdrop of the people’s tour of the White House? Well there goes my dream vacation in Washington to meet and greet with the Obama’s when I visit my son in VA. But I truly believe everyone responsible for incompetence of the Presidents security should be fired if they already have not been or have not resigned.

  18. vtshipman says:

    I was able to get tickets to see the White House back in 2000 by showing up at an outlet location a block away on the morning we wanted to see it. I guess things have changed since 9/11 for the better because I was amazed at the light security that was involved.

    The outside security should be very tight and anything flying toward the White House must be shot down before it should be blown out of the sky. Government officials in general have forgotten that the White House is ours and it should open for people to see it. I agree with the advance notification process so the visit will be safe.

  19. Chris D says:

    Sadly, nonsensical bureaucratic red tape and complacency have become rampant throughout our society these days. Apparently not even the most powerful individual in the free world is safe from such blatant stupidity. Too often policy and procedure prevail over common sense while the most obvious and preventable failures are increasingly commonplace. Your experience of being turned away with credentials is exacerbated by the inexcusable security breach pulled off so effortlessly by Mr. Gonzales. It sure doesn’t exude hope and/or confidence in our future as a civilization.

  20. Marcus E D says:

    Routine and complacency… That’s just what would be attackers hope is occurring with the Secret Service the day they show up to attack. Every Secret Service Protective Agent dreams of the day of a well orchestrated attack on the presidential motorcade, a shooting at a press conference, a shoulder fired missile aimed at Air Force One. After all, that’s the action they trained for. What they don’t expect is some dull normal to simply hop the fence and run in the front door of the White House! That’s where security folks are most vulnerable. I know from my work in the GA prison system that impromptu attacks leave us most vulnerable. When a snitch tips us off to an imminent brawl between warring sets of gang-bangers, we have CERT on high alert, the Tactical Squad on standby, and all hands on deck. When, however, a lone foot soldier sucker punches a Lieutenant on the flattop, we are caught with our pants down! “Good Security is not Convenient.” The sign hangs in every prison lobby in the state. Being on high alert on a routine, quiet, Wednesday night in D.C. is neither convenient nor exciting. It is, however, necessary to protect our first family. Nowadays, a fence hopper is anything but routine…

  21. Fransiska S says:

    There apparently needs to be a better system of procedures to make sure the White House is safely guarded. It sounds as if there is not enough security or security is not taking their jobs seriously. I know recently the White House Administration had decided to add higher gates on the outside of the White House. However, this issue sounds like a internal issue of security not following the proper policies and procedures.

  22. Matt R says:

    I’m not sure I know too many people who would be willing to wait in a line with more than, I don’t know, 2 people ahead of them to meet our current president. Would it be cool the see the white house? Yes. I have never been there. But if I didn’t meet the president and shake his hand, I would be more than happy with that. He probably wouldn’t be there anyway as it would take away from his very important golf game. But it is kind of crazy how the almighty secret service to the president, in their sharp black suits, slicked up hair and cool sunglasses are made to look like glorified hall monitors. If they’re not careful, one of these days, someone might just figure out how to get in and STAY in. If I were Obama, I wouldn’t feel very safe at all.

  23. Jill V says:

    I’m sure many of you have read and heard about the new White House fence, “pencil points.” Approved by the National Capital Planning Commission, the White House received a new row of metal spikes stacked in between the existing fence structure.

    The Secret Service and National Park Service were quoted in various articles saying they find these new “modifications” to be “an acceptable level” of deterring intruders. While this fix is said to be only temporary, I ask…is this really the sad world we’ve come to live in? Is this needed because it’s now harder for security to do their jobs or it is that people are just becoming too “wild” that we need better “cages” to ward off such “animals?”…or both?

    I don’t know…I get it in some senses…but I also find this news to be very disappointing and depressing that this is the direction we have to stake….uh I mean, take.

  24. Kelsey G says:

    I think this article was written in regards to the different people who work in the white house and some of the obstacles you have to overcome just to get in the white house. I remember when I was younger and we went to visit the white house we were able to go inside but we had to go through many security areas and could only go and look at certain areas. I think that this would only be in the best interest of the officials who live in the house. Seeing that there has been an increase of the amount of people who have been trying to get into the house and potentially harm the President the fact that new processes have come into play and the increase of security is expected.

  25. Connor S says:

    Obviously the increase in security is a necessary precaution with the nature of the world these days. However, there definitely needs to be something done about the issues that keep arising with the secret service. Changes need to be made in the hiring process. New directors need to be hired to ensure that the lower level employees and officers are held accountable to what is required of them.

    Yes, hindsight is always 20/20, but those that always say this are never using what they have already seen to make adjustments and improve what works by changing what does not work.

  26. Ambreshia says:

    I would like to think that if there is going to be much precaution directed towards anyone it is very much so needed to protect those that are dwelling in the White House. There should always be background checks done and at least a minimum of 2 months for anyone requesting trips or tours of the white house. I would think with so much going on around the world that the security systems would have doubled if not quadrupled in numbers to guarantee safety for the president and his family. I can relate to you and your family by questioning why is it so difficult to tour the White House. At the same time i would have an understanding if the answer was happened to be a no or having to wait some time before a date was set.

  27. Callen M says:

    The Superintendent of our schools was named the National Superintendent of the Year and was recognized at a gala in his honor two weeks ago. A select group of people from our office were in attendance and were told they would be getting a tour of the White House, but when it came down to it the people in Washington just couldn’t make it happen. I just heard the same old excuses come through our office just two weeks ago. Seems nothing has changed. My boss who also once worked for a Mississippi congressman in Washington thought maybe she could pull some strings but even with her best attempt and connections the same answer came through each time.

  28. Matt R says:

    Perhaps that is why Obama spends so much time on the golf course instead of in the White house. Perhaps he feels safer there. If I were able to get into the white house that easily and my secret service was nothing but a glorified hall monitor, I’d be a little nervous. But, he has nothing to worry about because he spends more of his time spending millions a millions of taxpayer dollars to go on vacation so he’s hardly ever IN the white house anyway.

  29. Brittney C says:

    The golf course may be the safest place for the President because it is so obvious that the White House is not a SAFE place. By the way, if he is spending millions and millions of taxpayers money on vacation he is not doing anything that other Presidents before him hasn’t done. Also, while we (Americans) are worrying about how much his vacations are costing (the American people), why don’t we spend this time trying to come up with ways on how to keep the President and the first family safe! Oh, wait this is the Secret Service Job!

  30. Brittney C says:

    Anytime someone is able to walk into the White House or jump a fence and enter onto the grounds of the White House it is a serious problem, but this is what happens when you are slacking…..oh, I mean sleeping…..

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