A new report has revealed how US Secret Service agents were baffled following a 2011 shooting against the White House, with the attack remaining undetected until five days later.
“No shots have been fired. . . . Stand down,” a Secret Service supervisor said on his radio after an armed man shot at the White House seven times on November 11, 2011, the Washington Post revealed in a report on Saturday.
Bits of wood and concrete fell to the ground after the shooting with one of the bullets smashing a window on the second floor, close to the Obamas’ formal living room.
US President Barack Obama and his wife were out of town at the time of the attack but one of his daughters was inside along with her grandmother.
It took the US Secret Service five days to realize that an attack had happened and that only came about by a housekeeper’s discovery of broken glass and a chunk of cement on the floor.
The shooter, identified as 21-year-old Oscar R. Ortega-Hernandez, crashed his car seven blocks away, which forced him to abandon it along with his semiautomatic gun.
By the end of the night, the shooting had been confirmed but the Secret Service insisted that it never targeted the White House but was a result of fighting by a gang in the area.
According to the Post’s report, Secret Service spokesman Ed Donovan declined to comment on the new revelations.
“It was obviously very frightening that someone who didn’t really plan it that well was able to shoot and hit the White House and people here did not know it until several days later,” said William Daley, the then chief of staff at the White House.
“The handling of this was not good,” he added, recounting how the late discovery of the bullets infuriated the Obamas.
The new report sheds light on the vulnerability of the White House to similar attacks.
“The suspect was able to park his car on a public street, take several shots and then speed off without being detected. It was sheer luck that the shooter was identified,” it said.
Commenting on the report, international lawyer Barry Grossman said, “Every US president since at least Harry Truman has had multiple attempts on his life. A security apparatus which is so-inclined – to say nothing of one already dominated by special interests – can easily send a message to any president by the quality of protection given to him and his family. If a ‘tap-on-the-roof’ doesn’t do the job, there is always the prospect of a ‘tap-to-the-chest.”
“Every president is acutely aware of this. This is indisputable,” he stated. “It is incumbent on the Secret Service and wider security apparatus to remove this wild card from the policy making process.”