Top 7 Excuses From the White House Fence Jumper Report
If we learned anything from the 10-page executive summary of the Department of Homeland Security's "Report on the White House Incursion Incident of September 19, 2014," which was released Thursday and chronicles the step-by-step mistakes made by the Secret Service that allowed a hatchet-wielding Oscar Gonzalez to hop a perimeter fence and make his way deep inside the president's home and office, it is that everyone is human.
Humans, as we know, are too obsessed with their cell phones. And while we are obsessing over our cell phones, we make too many assumptions. What follows is a list of unwise assumptions, out-of-whack priorities, and miscommunications between Man and Man's best friend. Basically, excuses for how a man who had been monitored by the police and the Secret Service for months prior to the incident, could scale a the White House fence and make it all the way inside the 1600 Pennsylvania Ave.
1. The radios weren't set up right
Shortly after Gonzalez ignored the shouts of uniformed officers and climbed over the White House fence where a missing "trident" made doing so easier, his landing on the grass set off alarms. But information about the incursion didn't make it to the right people, in part due to a misunderstanding on the part of an officer assigned to the Joint Operations Center:
This Officer did not know that the Joint Operations Center, at the time of this incident, lacked the capability to override normal radio traffic and that his transmissions were broadcast to Uniformed Division Officers stationed at the White House. He did not continue to communicate over the radio because he wanted to keep the frequency clear for other responding Officers to communicate.
2. The construction was blinding
Were it not for a construction project, some of the uniformed officers stationed at the White House might have actually seen Gonzalez.
At the time Gonzalez climbed over the fence, several Uniformed Division personnel were stationed at the Northwest gate on Pennsylvania Avenue, but none of them saw Gonzalez as their views were obstructed by a construction project along the fence line.
3. Bush thickness was not thick enough
Several of the agents mistakenly believed that the bushes in front of the White House would serve as a protective barrier in the event of an intruder.
The Officer followed Gonzales into the bushes, but lost sight of him as Gonzalez passed through the bushes and ran up the stairs to the White House's North Portico entrance. At the time of the incident, both Emergency Response Team Officers were surprised that Gonzales was able to get through the bushes; prior to that evening, the Officers believed the bushes too thick to be passable.
4. Personal call could not wait
Perhaps the most glaring excuse in the report summary involves the Canine Officer who was stationed in a van on the White House driveway, who was distracted from the unfolding events because he was on his personal cell phone.
When Gonzalez jumped the North fence, the Canine Officer was on a call on his personal cell phone (on speaker), without his radio earpiece in his ear, and he had left his second (tactical) radio in his locker.
5. The van still needs those speakers
Further impeding the Canine Officer in the van who had left his radio in a locker, removed his earpiece, and was talking on his cellphone is the fact that said van was not equipped with the proper sound system.
The Canine Officer did not hear any radio traffic announcing that there was a fence jumper, and his vehicle was not equipped with monitors or speakers that could have alerted him to alarm breaches, the activation of the emergency communication system, or the elevation of the White House internal alert system.
6. If only the dog could run faster
After all the missteps detailed on the part of the Canine Officer, you might think that his dog would be spared blame in the report. But you would be wrong. After spotting Gonzalez without the aid of a radio, speakers, or an alarm, the officer, with his trusty canine sidekick, moved to stop him. The protocols involving the dog, however, proved cumbersome.
While moving toward Gonzalez, the Canine Officer gave Gonzalez the required verbal warning about the canine, caught a glimpse of Gonzalez heading toward the bushes, and gave his canine the command to apprehend Gonzalez. The canine, however, did not have enough time to lock onto Gonzalez and may not have seen Gonzalez at all.
7. All of the above, and more
Citing some of the same problems, another Secret Service agent stationed in a car in the White House driveway offered multiple reasons as to his own inability to stop Gonzalez's swift progress into the president's home:
An officer stationed in another USSS vehicle parked directly behind the Canine Officer's vehicle had trouble seeing parts of the North Grounds due to the bushes (which at the time were six to eight feet in height) and the trees located on the North Grounds of the White House. These obstructions blocked the Officers view of Gonzalez as he ran on the east side of the fountain. The officer also was unable to hear any comprehensible radio communications about alarm breaks or Ganzalez until the Joint Operations Center relayed that Gonzalez had reached a post near the North Portico Entrance.
But this officer also offered a new wrinkle that further explains how the fence jumper could make it so far inside the White House before he was stopped:
This Officer drew his weapon and took cover behind a pillar according to what he believed his training to require.