WASHINGTON (CBS DC) — Following reports of a string of Secret Service security lapses affecting both the White House and President Barack Obama, the top Democrat on the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee says that changes from “the top-down” will be necessary.
Secret Service Director Julia Pierson resigned last week after the high-profile security issues came to light, and Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Md., said more departures are sure to come amid a culture of complacency – and what some of his constituents have suggested is a racial issue.
“This goes back a ways,” Cummings told CBS News’ “Face the Nation.” “There’s been a reduction in training, morale, high turnover… and it seems that we have a Secret Service that doesn’t even trust itself.
“This most recent fence-jumping incident there were basically five layers of security that failed, which is ridiculous. They don’t have the kind of technology, the modern technology that they ought to have.”
The comments come after a series of detailed security lapses that most recently allowed a man with to climb over the White House fence and run inside the structure as spectators videotaped the incident. An armed man was also allowed to ride an elevator with Obama during a visit to Atlanta and in 2011, agents were not aware that shots had been fired at The White House – and didn’t inform the napping First Lady Michelle Obama.
Cummings said he doesn’t personally believe Obama’s security has decreased due to his race, but the concern has been raised to him.
“Eighty-five percent of all African-Americans that come to me mention [this fear], and I don’t agree with it,” said Cummings, who backed the need for Pierson to resign. “We have information that this goes all the way back to the Bush administration, a lot of the problems that we’re talking about now. It’s just that they’re coming to light. So a lot of these things existed before President Obama.”
Leon Panetta, the former secretary of state and director of the CIA who helped oversee President Bill Clinton’s security as chief of staff, says the problems are tied to “second-term blues” complacency.
“It’s part of what I’ve termed ‘second-term blues,’ where people get into these jobs; they begin to take them for granted,” Panetta told USA Today. “They think that because nothing’s happened that they can get a little lazy in the way they operate,” he says. “You cannot allow that to happen.”
“The president has nothing but the highest regard for the men and women of the Secret Service,” White House spokesman Josh Earnest commented, one of several administration officials praising agency staff in light of the recent reports.