It was not too many years ago when we watched Jennifer Garner play the part of Sydney Bristow on the ABC television network thriller drama series Alias. Week after week, she would insert herself into very high security, international events that one would say it would be impossible to penetrate.
Sydney Bristow was always dressed to the nines, attractive and captivating and able to get into whatever event she needed to. Surprisingly, she managed to elude capture. Our minds allowed for this unlikely circumstance week after week because it was a fictional TV show where it is alright to suspend belief.
Now, we see two aspiring reality TV wannabees (whose names I’m not providing as I do not want to give them more publicity) literally stroll in the front door of the White House to attend President Obama’s first state dinner. The attractive woman apparently so captivated the Secret Service Agents that they lost their judgment, their sense of purpose and mission and situational awareness. This is an amazing business execution failure.
All the top U.S. government officials were present at this event, including the full line of succession to replace President Obama. If these people had had bad motives, Senator Robert Byrd could have become the President of the United States (he did not attend the event).
The good news: Nothing nefarious happened.
The bad news: The U.S. Secret Service suffered a major business execution failure on an international stage.
We have heard that when the couple reached the first security point, they were passed onto the next even though there names were not “on the list.” We have heard that the individual who made this decision “assumed” that the irregularity would be handled at the next check point. It was not.
How can the U.S. Secret Service have a process that allows for a single point of failure? The mere fact that the agent allowed the couple to go to the next check point is a single point of failure. This is completely unacceptable.
What should happen next? Some want to charge the couple with whatever crime they can be charged with to “send a message.” From my perspective, this is a way to deflect attention from what really happened–a security breach that could have had potentially horrific consequences but, thankfully, did not.
We should be grateful that these publicity-seeking people only wanted publicity. Perhaps we should thank them for exposing the security vulnerability, a vulnerability that a junior high school student could have easily anticipated.
Should people in the Secret Service lose their jobs over this? Yes. This breach should be career-limiting for one or more people. If we want to send a message, it should be that the U.S. Secret Service will not tolerate single points of failure, especially points of failure as idiotic as this.
Dave Gardner, Gardner & Associates Consulting