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Secret Service blunders expose skewed priorities

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Security has been a pertinent issue in the United States for the last fifteen years. Wars waged in Afghanistan and Iraq promised to protect the lives and liberties of U.S. citizens. Domestic precautions such as the NSA and TSA are justified by their roles in national security. The issues of border control and increasing illegal immigration dominate current political discourse.

However, recent years have brought the competence of the White House security detail into question. Bullets were fired at the White House only three years ago, demonstrating a consistent inability to protect the President and his family. Now, the White House has once again experienced a security breach.

Members of Congress questioned the then-director of the Secret Service, Julia Pierson, over the latest threat. The breach occurred on Sept. 19, when Omar J. Gonzalez broke into the White House while carrying a knife. Sources say that the suspect had shown up to the White House one month earlier with a hatchet. Two Secret Service agents reportedly saw Gonzalez earlier, but failed to keep a good enough eye on him. Gonzalez successfully jumped the fence and went through the unlocked front door before being tackled on his way to the Green Room. He has since been indicted by a grand jury on charges of unlawful entry and carrying a deadly weapon.

Making the scandal more controversial is the fact that the Secret Service misled the public about the extent of the intrusion. Officials originally stated that the suspect was unarmed and crept inside the North Portico. Congress members have grilled Pierson for her oversight and incompetence in the matter, but still, neither side can take the moral high ground. Liars demanding the truth from other liars only provides entertainment. Politicians frequently create laws that serve their own interests. Money from corporations and interest groups continues to funnel in and line the pockets of America’s faithful public servants. Oppression of third parties and gerrymandering serves only to maintain the corrupt status quo.

The biggest issue in this entire debacle is not the failure of Julia Pierson and the Secret Service, but the utter lack of vigilance toward American concerns. Dangers brooding such as ISIS, Ebola and Russian hegemony have all hijacked our political sphere. While the U.S. has cause for concern with these predicaments, these problems cannot distract the country from all of its pressing issues. Rising tuition and crippling student debt, dependence on fossil fuels and further continued unemployment define the chaos that is U.S. politics. History has taught us that all empires will eventually crumble by focusing resources on matters abroad instead of domestically, and American foreign policy is no different.

The breach of White House security demonstrates that the Obama administration is devising international tactics, yet failing to secure the president’s own residence. The time has come for a reassessment of our country’s most fundamental policies. Doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results is insanity.

If America is to play any significant role in the world, it must first tackle its own issues. Whether this remains possible is yet to be seen.

Nick Squires ’16 squires@stolaf.edu is from Andover, Minn. He majors in philosophy.