During a Sept. 16 trip to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to discuss Ebola, President Obama rode in an elevator with a security contractor who carried a gun and had three prior assault and battery arrests. This was a blatant violation of Secret Service protocols, three sources familiar with the case told The Washington Post.
Prior to an event involving the president, a security measure called the Arm's Reach Program has Secret Service staffers run the names of volunteers, invited guests, and others who might be near the president through several databases, including a criminal information registry. If a person is found to have a criminal history, mental illness, or other "indications of risk," they are kept away. Private security contractors would typically be checked, two former agents told The Post.
During the Sept. 16 incident, the Secret Service agents on the elevator became concerned when the private contractor pulled out his cell phone and started filming the president; when asked to stop, he did not comply. After Obama exited the elevator, some agents stayed behind and questioned the man, the sources said, and checked his criminal history on a national database.
A supervisor from the firm providing security for the CDC came up and once he was told of the agents' concerns, the contractor was immediately fired. He gave up his gun, startling the agents, who did not know he was armed. Obama was not notified of the breach, the sources said, and while Secret Service Director Julia Pierson asked that the incident be looked into, she did not forward it to an investigative unit created to review violations of standards and protocol.
Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah), who heads the House subcommittee that oversees the Secret Service, was told of the incident by a whistleblower. "You have a convicted felon within arm's reach of the president, and they never did a background check," he said. "Words aren't strong enough for the outrage I feel for the safety of the president and his family. His life was in danger. This country would be a different world today if he had pulled out his gun."
The unidentified contractor was never convicted after any of his several arrests, the most recent in 1996, The New York Times reports. A Secret Service official told The Post an investigation into the episode is ongoing.