Not an Isolated Incident: Man Scales White House Fence

By Mack Wilowski, National News Assistant Editor

Last week, a California man managed to climb over the White House fence and roam on the grounds of the presidential residence undetected for up to seventeen minutes. The failure of security guards to detect this draws questions on the surveillance methods and equipment used to guard the White House. Secret Service agents appeared to ignore several key alarms, and a Republican lawmaker suggested that security measures are outdated and remain inadequate after two years of inaction in modifying the measures.

A separate incident also occurred in Brooklyn, where a laptop used by the Secret Service was stolen from an agency vehicle, however Secret Service officials replied that the agency’s laptops are fully encrypted and are not required to contain classified information.

The man was identified as Jonathan Tuan-Anh Tran, a twenty-six-year-old from Milpitas, California. He appeared to be carrying a backpack, two cans of pepper spray, and a book by President Trump and letter directed to the president. A White House officer described the individual as “having a history of mental illness.” After being detained, Tran repeatedly stated: “I am a friend of the president and I have an appointment.” Trump offered some words on the incident the following day, stating that the Secret Service did a fantastic job. Tran, who successfully managed to climb a gate as high as eight feet, was inside the White House grounds for 17 minutes before being apprehended at roughly 11:38 at night according to the San Francisco Chronicle.

As a result of the incident, Representative Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah), Chairman of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, requested that the Secret Service provide a briefing about the intrusion. “The moment somebody jumps the fence, they must be taken down,” Chaffetz reported.

Speaking about the failed response of the Secret Service Guards, he continued saying that “this one scares me probably more than any because of the length of time, the proximity to the president, getting right up close to the White House and going so long without being detected. It makes no sense. I don’t know what in the world they’re doing but it is a total and complete embarrassment.”

Last week’s fence-jumping incident drew similarities to an incident that took place in September 2014, when an intruder with a knife managed to breach the fence and run through a section of the East Wing of the White House before being apprehended by guards. In both occurrences, the Secret Service was criticized for downplaying the seriousness of the intrusions.

A report released two years ago by the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee described the Secret Service as “an agency in crisis,” reflecting upon outdated techniques and systems used by the agency and an increasing number of unreported events.

Over a ten-year period, the agency reported 143 security breaches at secured facilities of the Secret Service. An increasing number of individuals and members of Congress are calling for reforming techniques and renewing the technologies used by the Secret Service. According to many, protecting the most important individual in the United States government is a very serious task and deserves to be treated with the utmost care and discipline.

A version of this article appeared in the Tuesday, March 21st print edition.

Contact Mack at


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