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Not so Secret Failure

POSTED: October 02, 2014, 11:00 am

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I am of the generation of the American political assassination and the multiple conspiracies that still abound concerning tragic killings of political leaders during the 1960s. In my lifetime President John F. Kennedy was felled by an assassin’s bullet in Dallas and that same year NAACP leader Medgar Evers was killed months earlier. Two years later Malcolm X was gunned down while delivering a speech in the Audubon Ballroom in Washington Heights in New York City. Five years after the horrific killing of JFK, civil rights leader Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated in Memphis and then the late President’s brother, U.S. Senator Robert F. Kennedy was struck down after claiming victory in the California presidential primary. In 1969 Black Panther leader Fred Hampton was gunned down by Chicago police, who were aided by the F.B.I., during a raid on his apartment.

In other words, America knows something about political assassinations. It is why the security missteps of the Secret Service in protecting President Obama and the recent breach that occurred on the White House grounds are unacceptable. The director of the Secret Service Julia Pierson had no choice but to resign and in my estimation should have been dismissed from her post, along with agents who were on duty on the grounds of the presidential mansion when an intruder made his way through the unlocked front door of what we assumed was the most secure house in America.

The tragic assassinations I referenced all took place in venues that were unsecured and easily accessible, and each of those incidents continue to carry the scent of conspiracy decades later. How then are we to believe that the penetration of the White House is simply a matter of a security lapse? For anyone who has visited 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue on official business, you know it to be a place where security is evident and your movement is monitored no matter how inconspicuous the Secret Service attempts to be as they guard the President and his family. For someone to hurdle the mansion’s North front fence, cross the lawn and make it to the front door, let alone walk through the door that was unlocked, constitutes layers of failure that are inconceivable. Then to know that an intruder easily passed the stairway that leads to the second floor and the First Family’s private residence, and members of the President’s family were home, is all the more appalling.

As shocking as that incident is to the rational senses, the news that the President was on an elevator with a convicted felon who had a firearm surmounts to the willful exposure of President Obama to a potentially deadly attack. While I generally do not cast judgment upon the formerly incarcerated, given the past and recent history of gun violence in America, one must question whether this President’s life was purposely put in jeopardy.

“this President’s life has been devalued in a way that could even have penetrated the thinking of those who have sworn to protect him”

We love conspiracy theories in America. It is the stuff of books, films, documentaries and conferences. However, we have good reason to be suspicious and our suspicion is not all driven by paranoia. Questions still linger about the assassinations of both Kennedy brothers, Malcolm X, Dr. King and Fred Hampton. Despite the tragic events of the 1960s, we witnessed the assassination attempt on the life of Alabama Governor George Wallace in 1972, two failed attacks on President Gerald Ford in 1975, the shooting of National Urban League leader Vernon Jordan in 1980, and the nearly successful attempt on President Ronald Reagan in 1981 that permanently impaired White House press secretary Jim Brady. Our conspiracies are simply the unanswered questions from a nation that can’t understand how its leaders are so vulnerable to supposedly ‘insane’ actors.

This is particularly true for the President and more so for the nation’s first African-American President. Many people feared the election of the first African-American to the presidency because of pervasive racism in our society and the thought that the first Black to occupy the Oval Office would be a prized target. Those fears were not unfounded as President Obama has been the object of an unprecedented number of threats. As he serves in an environment where he is disrespected in the media and the official political machinery in Washington, this President’s life has been devalued in a way that could even have penetrated the thinking of those who have sworn to protect him. Looking at these recent Secret Service security failures as a continuum of insecurity leaves one with the impression that number 44 is simply regarded as dispensable.

If there is any respect left on Capitol Hill for the institution of the presidency, as there seems to be judging by the temperament of the congressional hearing this week on the security lapses, then a top to bottom review of the Secret Service is in order. For those of us who understand the implications of the first African-American President in the White House, our duty is to be loud and clear in our demand that he and his family is afforded an impenetrable blanket of security. We cannot accept anything less.

Walter Fields is Executive Editor of

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