Long List of Breaches and Scandals for Secret Service Under Obama

A Brief History of Secret Service Slip-Ups 1:43

The Secret Service under President Barack Obama has been scarred over and over by security breaches and public embarrassments.

They began under Director Mark Sullivan and continued when Obama replaced him in March 2013 with Julia Pierson, who was grilled Tuesday by House lawmakers over the latest lapses.

Details of almost all the breaches and missteps were uncovered by The Washington Post. Here are the highlights:

November 2009: A Washington couple, Tareq and Michaele Salahi, crash Obama’s first state dinner. The Secret Service later acknowledges that officers never checked whether they were on the guest list. A photo emerges showing that they shook hands with the president. Sullivan, the director, says that he is “deeply concerned and embarrassed” by the breach. The Salahis parlay their fame into an undistinguished career in reality TV.

Image: Tareq and Michaele Salahi
From left, Michaele and Tareq Salahi arrive for the State Dinner in honor of India's prime minister at White House in 2009. The Virginia couple, not on the guest list, managed to slip into the first State Dinner of the Obama administration. Mandel Ngan / AFP - Getty Images

November 2011: A man with a semiautomatic rifle parks in front of the White House and fires at the building, with Sasha Obama inside and Malia Obama on her way home. A Secret Service supervisor, mistaking the shots for car backfire, orders officers to stand down. The service does not figure out that shots hit the building for four days, and only then because a housekeeper noticed broken glass. The president and first lady are infuriated, The Post reports years later.

April 2012: Eight Secret Service agents doing advance work for a presidential trip to a summit in Colombia lose their jobs after allegations that some took prostitutes from a strip club back to their hotel rooms. A Justice Department investigation finds that two Drug Enforcement Administration agents arranged one encounter between a prostitute and a Secret Service officer. Obama later says: “When we travel, we have to observe the highest standards.”

Image: Prostitutes walk in front of the Hotel Caribe in Cartagena (© Reuters file)
Prostitutes walk in front of the Hotel Caribe in Cartagena, Colombia, on April 17, 2012. As many as 21 women were brought back to the hotel by U.S. Secret Service and military personnel in an incident involving alleged misconduct with prostitutes. Reuters file

May 2013: A Secret Service supervisor leaves a bullet in a woman’s room at the Hay-Adams hotel, which overlooks the White House, and allegedly tries to force his way into the room to retrieve it. An investigation finds that the supervisor and a colleague sent sexually suggestive emails to a woman subordinate. The supervisor loses his job, and the colleague is reassigned. A Secret Service spokesman says: “Periodically we have isolated incidents of misconduct, just like every organization does.”

A Secret Service supervisor was suspended afte an incident at the Hay-Adams Hotel, seen here, an upscale hotel steps away from the White House. Evan Vucci / AP file

March 2014: Three Secret Service agents responsible for protecting Obama in Amsterdam are placed on leave after a night of drinking, in violation of Secret Service rules. One of the agents is passed out drunk in a hallway, The Post reports. The newspaper reports that the three are part of what is known as the counter assault team, a last line of defense responsible for fighting off assailants if the president or his motorcade comes under attack.

Sept. 16, 2014: In perhaps the most chilling of the Secret Service lapses, a security contractor with a gun and an assault record gets on an elevator with the president during a trip to Atlanta. The Post, citing people familiar with the incident, reports that the contractor used his cellphone to take video of Obama and did not stop when Secret Service agents told him to. The Secret Service only learns that the man has a gun when he is fired on the spot and turns it over. Obama was not told, The Post reports.

Sept. 19, 2014: An Iraq war veteran with a knife jumps the White House fence, dashes through the North Portico doors and makes it deep inside the building, into the East Room, before he is tackled, and only then by an off-duty Secret Service agent. The Secret Service first says only that the man was apprehended after getting in the door. A congressman tells The Post that a security alarm was disabled because staff nearby found it too noisy.