Today in security: Secret Service lost sensitive laptop with Trump Tower info on it, needed 15 minutes to catch WH fence jumper

It’s really past time for one of the big data sites to do a “power ranking” of Secret Service scandals since, say, 2010. Surely there’s enough there by now to fill out a Top 20 list.


Today’s “minor” scandal: The crank who jumped the fence last week at the White House somehow managed to run around for 15 minutes before he was caught, and may have gotten close enough to the building to “jiggle the door,” per Fox. Various fences and sensors designed to slow down intruders and alert the Service immediately to someone’s presence on the grounds did nothing to keep the guy away — and if that sounds familiar, it’s because the same thing happened in 2014. In that case, the fence-jumper actually made it inside the building. In this case, he was stopped at the door, but maybe only because he was foolish enough to approach an agent directly.

Video surveillance footage shows Tran, the accused jumper, first jumping a fence in the Northwest corner of the Treasury Building, immediately adjacent to the White House. Tran activated a sensor alarm in the Treasury Moat, the source said.

Secret Service officers responded to the alarm, but Tran had already snuck beyond one Secret Service post and moved closer to the White House when an officer came to investigate. The source believes Tran then crossed over the East Executive Drive and jumped the White House gate near an East Wing guard post that is not routinely staffed.

The source said Tran activated an alarm sensor, but was hiding behind a pillar of the East Wing entrance. The source said Tran then jumped a low wall before traversing along East Wing. Several sensors went off, but it is unclear if they were properly investigated. A variety of detection systems ring the White House complex in overlapping zones. The systems primarily rely on infrared and microwave technology, but can be subject to malfunction or false activation.


“[T]hey only found him when he walked up to the officer posted at the ‘C-11’ position, the back door of the White House’s South Portico that leads into the dignitary reception area, the sources said,” according to the Examiner, which describes the officer as “startled.” And even then, it may have been dumb luck that Tran was stopped. The Examiner’s sources claim that the agent mistook Tran for a contractor initially because of his khaki pants; if Tran had given him a story to that effect, would he have been allowed in?

Jason Chaffetz sent a letter to the Service today notifying them that the House Oversight Committee will be investigating. If you don’t remember Chaffetz, he was the target of a leak by the Secret Service two years ago that was designed to embarrass him, eventually requiring an apology by Obama’s DHS chief, Jeh Johnson. That’s worthy of the Top 10 list on the power rankings, I think, but we’ll see what FiveThirtyEight eventually has to say.

Again, failing to stop an intruder as he hurdled one White House barrier after another for 15 minutes is the minor scandal today. Here’s the major one:

An unoccupied vehicle with Maryland plates was broken into and a bag with a laptop and other items belonging to a Secret Service agent was stolen, sources told CBS2…

The laptop contains various sensitive information including Trump Tower floor plans and evacuation protocol as well as information pertaining to Hillary Clinton’s campaign email investigation, sources told CBS2…

Other sensitive documents that were in the car were also taken, but it’s unclear what those documents are, sources told CBS2. The information on the laptop cannot be remotely erased, sources said…

Besides the laptop, “lapel assignment pins” which included Trump, Clinton Campaign, UNGA and Pope pins were in the bag, sources said.


The Service is reportedly “freaking,” not just over the laptop’s disappearance but over the theft of the perimeter protection pins and her access keycard. The good news — if you believe the Service, and why would you at this point? — is that the laptop has “multiple layers of encryption,” can be disabled remotely, and will actually wipe its own hard drive clean after a certain number of unsuccessful login attempts. The bad news is … what the hell was the agent doing leaving the keys to the Secret Service castle like that in her car?

Alarmingly, if the Daily News’s sources are right, this doesn’t look like a smash-and-grab crime of opportunity in which a thief just happened to be passing by. The thief arrived on the agent’s street in a car, possibly an Uber, and got out of the back passenger side; the agent’s car was parked in her driveway. After he took the bag, he left on foot. Either this was a very unlucky petty theft in which the perp just happened to stop near the home of a Secret Service agent and robbed her car completely randomly or she was targeted deliberately. I’m not sure which scenario is worse, although the first one at least has an enjoyable light-comedy premise in which a small-time thief suddenly finds himself in over his head while the Keystone Kops Secret Service chase him around the country. And of course, that movie ends with the thief successfully scaling the White House fence, dodging the Service on his way into the building, and returning the stolen laptop to President Trump personally.


Exit question: Why hasn’t this pitiful agency been abolished yet? Surely we can build something better from the ground up. Make the Secret Service Great Again!

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