Above the Tearline: Issues in Presidential Protective Security
Vice President of Intelligence Fred Burton examines the recent shooting at the White House as a case study of issues surrounding protective security for a president.
Editor’s Note: Transcripts are generated using speech-recognition technology. Therefore, STRATFOR cannot guarantee their complete accuracy.
An Idaho man has been arrested and charged with attempted assassination after shots were fired at the White House earlier this month. Legal documents released so far provide a good case study of a potential assassin who was telegraphing his intent, but wasn't taken seriously until after an operational act.
Twenty-one-year-old Oscar Ramiro Ortega-Hernandez has been charged with trying to kill U.S. President Barack Obama. He is accused of firing several shots from a high-powered rifle through the window of his car from the south lawn area of the White House. Several witnesses reported the incident, which occurred on the night of Nov. 11. The president was not in Washington at the time, but FBI agents confirm that bullets struck parts of the White House that are known to be the private residence of the president and his family.
So assuming the allegations are true, why does this suspect make a good case study for protective security agents? First, the suspect was clearly messaging his hostile intent. He had told several witnesses before traveling to Washington that he was upset with President Obama and had referred to him as the devil and the Antichrist, but no one felt compelled to go to law enforcement.
As you look at some of his statements, you can get a sense that the individual is probably suffering from some degree of mental illness. It's been my experience that some individuals like this — that go down this road — are simply acting out because they are literally off their medication or have not taken their medication for quite some time.
The second point when you look at this case is his access to a vehicle, which allows him to travel, along with the possession of an assault rifle that he had access to. When you marry up his messaging and intent, along with the access to the assault rifle and his ability to travel, it's like a perfect storm of activities leading you down the path of a potential threat.
On the day of the attack the suspect also purchased ammunition for his assault rifle. The third point when you study this case is the unknown variable of whether or not the individual had threatened other elected officials, which is really a very interesting investigative trail that is unknown at this point. The Above the Tearline aspect in this case is: the U.S. Secret Service will dissect this investigation and case every step of the way and put together a lessons learned report which will be shared throughout the Secret Service as well as other federal government agencies assigned to protect elected officials with an eye towards how this kind of case could have been interdicted before the individual got in his car with a weapon and drove to the White House and successfully fired off several rounds.