Why would the Secret Service order Dallas (Dallas!!) police officers to stop searching attendees’ purses, laptop bags, etc. as they entered the venue where Sen. Barack Obama was scheduled to speak this last Wednesday morning?
What possible excuse could there be for such a blatant refusal to provide this hugely popular presidential candidate with security? What happened?
According to reporter Jack Douglas, Jr with the Fort Worth Star-Telegram,
“Security details at Barack Obama's rally Wednesday stopped screening people for weapons at the front gates more than an hour before the Democratic presidential candidate took the stage at Reunion Arena.
“The order to put down the metal detectors and stop checking purses and laptop bags came as a surprise to several Dallas police officers who said they believed it was a lapse in security.
“Dallas Deputy Police Chief T.W. Lawrence, head of the Police Department's homeland security and special operations divisions, said the order -- apparently made by the U.S. Secret Service -- was meant to speed up the long lines outside and fill the arena's vacant seats before Obama came on.”
Apparently Deputy Chief Lawrence was a little worried about the lack of security for Obama, but being an excellent judge of huge crowds and all, tamped down that niggly wee voice in his head that was screaming “Don’t do it, TeeDub! Don't do it!!” and followed his orders like a good boy:
“’Sure,’ said Lawrence, when asked if he was concerned by the great number of people who had gotten into the building without being checked. But, he added, the turnout of more than 17,000 people seemed to be a ‘friendly crowd.’”
A “friendly” crowd.
Using Dep. Chief Lawrence’s standards, which apparently are satisfied just by eyeballing, the crowd would have appeared “friendly” when Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was assassinated, too. Furthermore, to TeeDub, it would have been a “friendly” crowd that gathered hear Bobby Kennedy speak when he was shot down in cold blood.
That this “lapse” in judgment could take place in Dallas, where John F. Kennedy was assassinated, beggars belief. Was Dep. Chief Lawrence new to the area? Hadn’t he heard?
I can’t believe he’s that stupid. So why in hell didn’t he show some personal integrity and courage and refuse to follow that order?
I hope he’s without a job today.
I don’t know about you, but all kinds of other questions start rearing their prickly little heads in my mind. First and most obvious, “Was getting everyone into the arena more important than the safety of the candidate?” The story doesn’t say if people were being charged admission, but I doubt it. It does mention that the lines were moving very slowly, which one would expect when everyone is being wanded for weapons. If you want to see someone like Obama speak in person, it’s just common sense that you’ll plan for a long wait and arrive as early as you can. And you have to be prepared for disappointment. Once Obama – or Clinton, or McCain, or Huckabee for that matter – starts talking, the doors to the venue should be closed.
And they should have been on Wednesday.
But done is done. Several thousand people were allowed into the arena without being checked in the hour before Obama came onstage. Any one of them could have been carrying a gun or even a bomb. Next question: Was the damned fool who made the decision to compromise Obama’s security – and possibly risk the lives of the many of the attendees in the arena – fired? And if he or she wasn’t, why not?
Next question: Who told the Secret Service to stop checking attendees for weapons?
Who gives the Secret Service their marching orders? The SS is mandated by Congress, but it seems that the Department of Homeland Security plays a role. According to the Secret Service website:
“When an event is designated by the Secretary of Homeland Security as a National Special Security Event (NSSE), the Secret Service assumes its mandated role as the lead agency for the design and implementation of the operational security plan. The Secret Service has developed a core strategy to carry out its security operations, which relies heavily on its established partnerships with law enforcement and public safety officials at the local, state and federal levels.
“The goal of the cooperating agencies is to provide a safe and secure environment for Secret Service protectees, other dignitaries, the event participants and the general public. There is a tremendous amount of advance planning and coordination in preparation for these events, particularly in the areas of venue and motorcade route security, communications, credentialing and training.”
Okee-dokee. So who’s the head of Homeland Security? Why, it’s Michael Chertoff. Did he just decide, suddenly, on a whim Wednesday morning at 10ish , that the Obama rally in Dallas wouldn't be an NSSE? "Oh, why that's not necessary, boys. No one's gonna hurt Obama! What a silly thought! Call off the officers." Does he have a job today? I mean, after Katrina, he's skatin' on some thin ice.
[ … sigh … ]
I don’t know why the Secret Service would leave Obama unprotected this way. My mind literally shies away from the obvious and overwrought possibilities, which involve Republican and Bush administration foul play. I don’t want to believe that of my country, and for today, I won’t. But I hope that the Obama campaign is raising holy hell today over the incident, and that several people in high places have lost their jobs, because they deserve to.
And I hope the press looks into this and makes it a big deal, as well. So far, the Secret Service hasn’t answered the Star-Telegram’s phone calls.