Dominic Adesanya’s intrusion on to the North Lawn of the White House Wednesday shows that security lapses still exist in spite of recent measures taken to alleviate the problem. In Wednesday’s incident, the intruder’s attempt to enter the residence was thwarted by two Secret Service dogs who attacked him before uniformed agents subdued him. He was charged in court Thursday with unlawfully entering into restricted grounds of the White House, and also with harming two law enforcement service dogs.
Victor Adesanya, the intruder’s father, said his son has a mental disturbance that causes him to hear voices. He told CNN’s affiliate station WMAR that Dominic did not intend enter the White House to harm the president, but wanted to prove he was a superior athlete by wrestling with the dogs.
Josh Earnest, President Obama’s spokesman, praised the security team for apprehending the intruder. He said the quick response underscored the team’s professionalism. He added that plans were underway to enhance security at the White House.
Adesanya’s intrusion closely follows another by Texas resident Omar Gonzalez who scaled the fence on Sept. 16. Armed with a knife, he managed to enter the White House before he was stopped by secret service agents. His actions led to a hearing by the U.S Representatives Oversight and Government Reform Committee that resulted in the resignation of then secret service director Julia Pierson.
Successive presidents have always opened the White House, referred to as “the people’s house,” to visitors from all over the world. The security apparatus strives to find a balance between fulfilling this goal while ensuring that the president and his family remain safe. The challenge the security outfit faces in preempting the intruders arises from the fact they do not fit a specific profile. While some have been alleged to suffer from mental illness, others have scaled the fence in order to bring their causes to the limelight. An article in the Daily Dot of Sept. 22 chronicling previous fence-jumpers reported that Brian Patterson from New Mexico jumped over the fence in February 2004 while shouting that he had been a victim of terrorism. On Dec. 4, 2005, 29-year-old Shawn Cox did so in search of Chelsea Clinton, whom he wanted for a bride.
Prior to Adesanya’s intrusion on Wednesday that demonstrated that lapses still exist that create possibilities for intruders like Adesanya to take advantage of, the then secret service director Julia Prieston informed the U.S House of Representatives Oversight and Government Reform Committee that there had been 15 previous attempts made in the last five years. Six of those happened during Obama’s presidency.
Security at the White House has been a matter of concern to authorities for decades. An article in the Washington Post reported that the Secret Service had conducted an experiment to find out how easy it could be for intruders to scale the White House fence. The results indicated that the security team could be overwhelmed by about seven people jumping the fence at the same time. The report identified high staff turnover and severe staff shortages as some of the challenges the unit faced in solving the problem.
The secret service has already instituted some measures intended to seal the security lapses that exist that made it possible for intruders such as Adesanya to enter the White House North Lawn. An additional barrier has been added at the front of the White House. Agents charged with protecting the executive mansion have also started locking the front door at all times, making it harder for intruders to go beyond the White House lawn.
By Benedicto Ateku