In a residential area of Washington, D.C., the headquarters of the Department of Homeland Security is fenced, gated and patrolled by armed guards.
The guards are employed by Wackenhut Services, a British company that provides security for many sensitive American sites, including many of the nation's nuclear power plants.
But the Homeland Security headquarters is anything but secure, according to more than a dozen former and current Wackenhut employees who signed statements citing everything from unmanned guard stations to inadequate training.
Derrick Daniels is former guard. He says he was never trained on dealing with biohazards, suspicious packages, evacuating a building or any kind of chemical or biological weapon of mass destruction.
Daniels says the most frightening example was last fall, when a piece of mail containing white powder set off an anthrax scare. No one, he says, seemed to know what to do. It was more than an hour before the building was evacuated. At one point, he says, the envelope — later determined to be harmless — was carried within 20 feet of the office of Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff.
“Where the secretary of Homeland Security is housed, we should have the best training, the best equipment,” says Daniels.
Congressional Democrats are demanding an investigation.
“I was stunned,” says Sen. Byron Dorgan, D-N.D. “If the Department of Homeland Security can't provide security for its own building, how is it going to provide security for the country?”
The Department of Homeland Security says it “maintains several security measures both seen and unseen” and notes that after the white powder incident, guards were given additional training and more training will soon be required under a new security contract.
Wackenhut declined to respond on camera, but issued a statement claiming that their guards are properly trained and insisting that the facility is secure.