U.S. Secret Service officials missed a major opportunity to learn from their blunders and potentially save millions of dollars by failing to do an after-action review of their response to a 2011 shooting at the White House, according to a draft report from the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Office of Inspector General.
Secret Service agents failed to apprehend a man who shot at the White House with an assault rifle and it took them four days to realize one of his bullets hit the White House, in November 2011. Even so, Secret Service leaders never conducted an “after-action review” of the handling of the situation, the DHS IG said.
The Secret Service then spent $17 million obstructing the line of sight to the White House and increasing patrols without first determining the most effective way to secure the first family’s home.
“A formal after-action review and detailed analysis of the shooting incident would have helped determine whether protective policies were followed; the Secret Service could also have used such a review to identify vulnerabilities, best practices, and lessons learned to improve its future operations and response to similar incidents,” the DHS IG said.
“Because it did not formally identify security risks and evaluate options for addressing them, the Secret Service cannot ensure it invested resources where they were most needed,” the DHS IG continued. “Even if resource allocation decisions were correct and sustainable, without conducting and documenting its review and analysis, the Secret Service did not take steps to retain lessons learned from the incident.”
The shooting incident is one of a series of recent embarrassments for the protective detail, which has since also allowed an armed White House fence jumper into the East Room, let a private security guard with a criminal history ride an elevator alone with the president, allowed officers to party with cartel-funded prostitutes in Colombia.
The DHS IG is reviewing each of those incidents separately.
This latest report about the embattled elite law enforcement agency drew harsh criticism from Secret Service Director Joseph Clancy, who took the helm after former director Julia Pierson resigned in October 2014.
Clancy insisted in his response to Inspector General Jon Roth that the procedures in place that November night “functioned effectively,” and called the IG report issued four years after the incident, “flawed.”
Clancy was especially angered by the report’s title, which he said “appears a non-sequitur in relation to the rest of the report. The incident that is the subject of this review occurred over four years ago. Since that time, the Secret Service has instituted a number of changes to our operations, protocols and procedures. The findings of this report are not only flawed, but merely report on old information, and offer no new insight or constructive conclusions; thereby, greatly limiting the overall value of this draft report.”
Oscar Ortega-Hernandez fired an assault rifle at the White House Nov. 11, 2011, hitting the mansion and breaking a window. President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama were out of town for the weekend, but their younger daughter, Sasha, was home, and their older daughter, Malia, was expected home any minute, according to an October 2014 report from the Washington Post.
Some Secret Service agents immediately sought the source of the gunfire, while others stayed in position as the suspect fled. One new agent said he was unfamiliar with Secret Service protocols, and radio static prevented clear communications, the DHS IG said.
Secret Service agents issued no alerts to area police departments. Had they done so, police in nearby Arlington, Va., might have detained Ortega-Hernandez when they encountered him the day after the shooting.
Secret Service officials also failed to interview all agents that night. Had they done so, it may not have taken them four days to discover the bullet lodged in a White House window, just a few feet from the first family’s living room.
Ortega-Hernandez was sentenced to 25 years in October 2014.
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