Of the stories in the past two days, there is hardly anything more bizarre than that of Omar J. Gonzalez, 42, of Copperas Cove, a veteran had served three tours in Iraq — and relatives said served as a sniper — managed to jump over the White House fence, sprinted more than 70 yards across the Northern Lawn, got to the front double doors of the North Portico, turned the brass knob and stepped inside the vestibule. "There he was grabbed and subdued by an officer standing post inside the door." He war carrying a folding knife with a serrated blade and was located just feet away from where Obama would have normally been, if only Obama had not just minutes ago taken the wife and kids for yet another weekend mini getaway.
A detailed breakdown of events from WaPo:
On Friday at about 7:20 p.m., Gonzalez did the unthinkable, authorities said. The 42-year-old from Texas climbed over the north fence line along Pennsylvania Avenue, toward the eastern side of the house’s circular driveway. His breach set off the standard security alarm across the compound. Officers rushed to the North Lawn but were unable to reach him on foot as he ran, arms pumping, threading the needle between the fountain and a security guard booth and ignoring their commands that he stop.
Officers at the scene considered Gonzalez to be unarmed and likely mentally disturbed, a law enforcement official familiar with the incident said, and thus a low risk. It turned out Gonzalez was carrying the knife in his pants pocket. One source familiar with the incident said a sniper on scene had Gonzalez in his rifle sights just in case.
Which is ironic since Gonzalez himself was supposedly a sniper in his tours of duty.
While initial reports said that Gonzalez had been unarmed, it was in the affidavit filed later in U.S. District Court by a Secret Service (summarized here) where we learned that Gonzalez was carrying a "VG-10 black folding knife," a pocket knife with a 3.5-inch serrated blade, when he entered the White House.
According to WaPo, "a trained attack dog — the Secret Service’s fail-safe measure for stopping intruders when officers cannot — was not released in this case. The reasons are under investigation."
Here is where it gets bizarre: Gonzalez told a Secret Service officer that he was concerned "the atmosphere was collapsing and needed to get the information to the president of the United States so that he could get the word out to the people," the affidavit said. Perhaps he should have waited until today's New York City parade to convey his message instead of possibly spending as much as a decade behind bars.
What is stranger is that Gonzalez was neither under the influence of drugs or alcohol when the event took place: at a hearing late Saturday afternoon in D.C. Superior Court, the assistant public defender representing Gonzalez said Gonzalez had no convictions or arrest warrants, had tested negative Saturday for drug use and had been in the military for 18 years.
"This is someone who has provided service to his country and shown commitment in his life," said the lawyer, Margarita O'Donnell, as she tried unsuccessfully to get Gonzalez released.
In other words, it was just the PTSD flaring up. The good news is that the alleged sniper didn't put some of his other veteran skills to use when "approaching" the president.
The former soldier faces up to 10 years in prison on a charge of unlawfully entering a restricted building or grounds while carrying a deadly or dangerous weapon, prosecutors said. He couldn't be reached for comment.
And then came the shocked statements by pretty much everyone that an armed veteran could get within feet of Obama's living quarters:
"Although last night the officers showed tremendous restraint and discipline in dealing with this subject, the location of Gonzalez's arrest isn't acceptable," a Secret Service statement said on Saturday.
"This is totally and wholly unacceptable. . . . How safe is the president if this can happen?” said Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah), chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform subcommittee on national security. “I just can’t believe somebody can go that far without being impeded. The perception they are creating is only going to inspire more security breaches."
Rep. Peter King, R-N.Y., said the intrusion was "absolutely inexcusable" and he expected congressional hearings into the incident at one of the world's most heavily secured buildings.
"This demands a full investigation, an investigation as to what happened, why it happened and what's being done to make sure it never happens again," he told "Fox News Sunday."
And then it was Obama's turn to "comfort" the public that the Secret Service is still capable of protecting him: the White House released a statement Saturday, saying, “The President has full confidence in the Secret Service and is grateful to the men and women who day in and day out protect himself, his family and the White House. The Secret Service is in the process of conducting a thorough review of the event on Friday evening and we are certain it will be done with the same professionalism and commitment to duty that we and the American people expect from the U.S. Secret Service.”
As Newsday adds, the Secret Service said its Office of Professional Responsibility was carrying out the review. The breach triggered a rare evacuation of much of the White House. Secret Service agents drew their weapons as they hurried White House staffers and journalists out of the West Wing through a side door.
Then again, perhaps the reason for the lax security is far simpler. As it turns out, Gonzalez made it over the fence line just minutes after Obama and the first family took off from the South Lawn on a Marine One helicopter bound for Camp David.
In other words, as has been the case quite extensively in the past several years, Obama was simply not in the White House, and was far more likely to be found "resting" elsewhere, an elsewhere in immediate proximity to a golf course.
So perhaps the question is a simpler one: in order to better defend the president of the free world during his now traditional forays on the rough and to a lesser extent, the green, maybe the secret service has been taking so many lessons in "defending POTUS on and around a golf course" that they have simply forgotten how to do the same while on location at the White House.
In fact, what may be most surprising in all of the above is why Obama picked Camp David as his weekend escape: after all it is well-known that "Obama has rarely visited Camp David, the sprawling, secluded retreat in northern Maryland that has become a regular getaway spot for presidents over the past 70 years." The reason: Camp David doesn’t have a full golf course, and the president prefers to spend weekends on the links.
Surely a detailed follow up investigation will answer all these and more questions in short order.