Security lapses

Budget cuts period

Total budget (Millions)

Total discretionary budget authority (in millions)

Positions (End of year)

Secret Service Positions (End of year)



Director: B.L. Stafford
W.R. Basham
M.J. Sullivan
J. Pierson

Sept. 11: A turning point

Sept. 11, 2001: Terrorists attack the United States. One month later, President George W. Bush signs into law the USA Patriot Act, which requires the Secret Service to help in detecting and preventing cyber crimes and aiding investigations of such crimes.

2002: Based on a 2000 law, the Secret Service assumes responsibility for coordinating security for a growing number of large public events that are potential terror targets.

May 10, 2005

Grenade in Tiblisi

A protester throws a live grenade within 100 feet of the lectern where President Bush was speaking in the main square in Tbilisi, Georgia. News camera footage shows that the Secret Service was unable to control the throng waiting to see Bush and that huge numbers of people had bypassed magnetometers in pushing into Freedom Square. A defect keeps the grenade from exploding, but the FBI estimates that Bush could have been hit with shrapnel if the device had detonated.


May 31, 2006: President Bush names Sullivan, a longtime Secret Service agent, as the agency’s director.

Nov. 24, 2009

White House gate crashers

Aspiring reality-TV stars Tareq and Michaele Salahi are able to get into President Obama’s first state dinner without invitations. The Virginia couple are not on the guest list, but the White House social secretary had not provided a staff member to check guests at the first checkpoint, a departure from procedure. A Secret Service officer agrees to let the insistent couple through in order to get a long line of guests out of the rain. Inside, they take pictures with the president.

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On December 2009, the Secret Service director creates a special committee to assess vulnerabilities in White House security and presidential protection.

Nov. 11, 2011

Shooting at the White House

A mentally troubled man obsessed with “stopping” the president fires a semi-automatic rifle at the White House from his car on Constitution Avenue. The president and first lady are out of town but their daughter Sasha is home and their daughter Malia is returning home from an event. The gunfire strikes the mansion in at least seven places, but the Secret Service erroneously concludes that night that the shooting was not aimed at the White House and instead occurred as part of an argument between two cars of gangsters. The shooter is on the loose for four days, until a White House housekeeper discovers a bullet has cracked the window of the first family’s residence and FBI agents investigate.


April 12, 2012

Prostitution scandal in Cartagena

Thirteen Secret Service agents and officers are initially identified as having taken prostitutes to their hotel rooms in Cartagena, Colombia, about 36 hours before the president is scheduled to arrive in the country for a summit.

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March 26, 2013: In the wake of the Cartagena prostitution scandal, President Obama names Julia Pierson, Sullivan’s chief of staff, as the agency’s new director.

May 2013

Leaving bullet behind; suggestive and inappropriate emails

Two supervisors on President Obama’s protective detail are implicated in misconduct after one is found to have been drinking at the Hay-Adams hotel, steps from the White House, and to have later joined a female hotel guest in her room and left a government-issued bullet in the room. The probe of the first supervisor’s actions leads to the discovery that he and a second supervisor had sent suggestive and inappropriate e-mails and text messages to a female subordinate on the same detail.

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March 23-24, 2014

Heavy drinking in the Netherlands

The Secret Service sends three agents home from a presidential trip in the Netherlands after they are accused of engaging in a night of drinking on the town and one of them is found Sunday morning unconscious in the lobby of the hotel where the president is scheduled to arrive that Monday.

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Sept. 16, 2014

Armed security guard on elevator

A private security guard with a gun and an arrest record is allowed onto an elevator with President Obama during his visit to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta, a violation of Secret Service protocols.

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Sept. 19, 2014

Fence jumper makes it deep into White House

A mentally troubled Iraq war veteran climbs the White House fence and is able to get past multiple Secret Service officers, enter the White House’s front door and advance deep into the building, reaching the East Room. Layers of security meant to stop any intruder, as well as a series of Secret Service radio and communication systems used in a crisis, fail.

(Alan Pawlinski via YouTube)

Source: US Secret Service, DHS and FBI records.