The Slatest

Review Finds Secret Service Agents Are Just Like Us—Distracted By Our Cellphones at Work

Secret Service gets a performance review.

Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images

A series of security threats and high-profile blunders have forced the Secret Service to do some serious soul-searching. On Thursday, the Department of Homeland Security helped out with the latest round of introspection, submitting a review to Congress on how the Secret Service has been performing of late. Technically speaking, the performance review found the Secret Service guilty of “performance, organizational and technical” failures.

But that doesn’t really tell the whole story. After all, an armed intruder—Omar Gonzalez—was able to jump the fence and sprint across the lawn and into the White House in September. Here’s more from the New York Times on the Secret Service’s comedy of errors trying to respond to that particular security breach:

[A]t 7:19 p.m., officers on Pennsylvania Avenue spotted [Gonzalez] climbing over the fence at a point where one of the ornamental spikes was missing… The review found that the Secret Service’s alarm systems and radios failed to function properly, and that many of the responding officers did not see the intruder as he climbed over the fence, delaying their response.. One of the officers followed Mr. Gonzalez into the bushes in front of the North Portico but lost sight of him. The summary said that the officers “were surprised that Gonzalez was able to get through the bushes” because “prior to that evening, the officers believed the bushes” were too thick to pass through…

[T]he review found that Omar Gonzalez, the man charged in the incident, could have been stopped by a Secret Service officer who was stationed on the North Lawn with an attack dog. But the officer did not realize that an intruder had made it over the fence because he was sitting in his van talking on his personal cellphone. The officer did not have his radio earpiece in, and had left the second radio he was supposed to have in his locker. It was only after he saw another officer running toward Mr. Gonzalez that he was alerted to the incident.