News / USA

Arizona Shooting Sparks Security Concerns

An FBI agent writes down information as he looks at a chair and the ground where Rep. Gabrielle Giffords was shot at a local Safeway in Tucson, Arizona, 10 Jan 2011
An FBI agent writes down information as he looks at a chair and the ground where Rep. Gabrielle Giffords was shot at a local Safeway in Tucson, Arizona, 10 Jan 2011


Gary Thomas

The shooting rampage in Arizona that left six people dead and 14 injured has re-ignited concerns about security for politicians. Government prosecutors have portrayed the attack as an assassination attempt on an Arizona congresswoman, who was critically wounded. But providing security for members of Congress is logistically, financially, and politically difficult.

When Representative Gabrielle Giffords was shot, security was virtually nonexistent because most members of Congress neither have it nor want it. But in the wake of the Arizona incident, questions are being raised about both the need and feasibility of new security measures for them, especially when they are in their home districts and states.

Former Secret Service agent Joe LaSorsa, who served on the detail protecting President Ronald Reagan, says politicians do not like living in a so-called "security bubble" because they feel that cuts them off from voters.

"In a democracy our politicians are required to go out and press flesh, they are required to go out there and meet the people,” LaSorsa said. “And they have been accustomed to traditionally not being exposed to an overwhelming amount of violence directed towards individuals, especially individuals like congressmen and senators. But with the number of individuals out there in our society who are mentally ill, they do face a greater degree of exposure than ever before."

Members of Congress have been spending more time in their home districts than in Washington because of the need to raise funds to cover burgeoning campaign costs. It is also easier to get home now that cheaper and more convenient transportation is available.

LaSorsa, who owns a business training bodyguards, says simply providing members of Congress with bodyguards gives them a false sense of security.

"It is a comfort level that they think they are getting when they hire an individual to escort them,” LaSorsa added. “And then they believe, 'Oh, now I have security so I am okay.'  Well, that is not always the case. You do have security, yes. You have a presence, yes. You have someone escorting you. But that does not mean that you are both not going to become targets because you do not know where the attack is coming from."

Another ex-Secret Service agent, Christopher Falkenberg, says personal protection has to be accompanied by good intelligence on potential threats.

"The most thoughtful approach to preventing these types of crimes is really a preventive one in which the effort has to be identifying people who are making threats and who are likely to be violent and intervening with them before they become violent,” said Falkenberg. “That by far is the most effective mechanism for maintaining the security of a public figure, including a public servant. The use of bodyguards and Secret Service details and agents, while it is very important, is really a last line of defense."

But security experts point out that even advance investigation may not have ever picked up on alleged shooter, Jared Loughner, since he is not known to have made any threat against Congresswoman Giffords. But Loughner’s bizarre behavior caused him to be ousted from a local community college.

Congressional leaders have full-time security provided by the Capitol Police, a force that protects the Capitol building and its environs. Rank-and-file members can request security if they feel they are under threat. But in most cases, members get security in their home district from local law enforcement if they request it. Analysts believe such requests will be more frequent in light of the Arizona shooting.

Some people have suggested expanding the Capitol Police’s size and jurisdiction. But Chris Falkenberg, now head of Insite Security in New York, says it is more likely Congress will move to reimburse local and state police for protective security costs.

"Representatives have really busy schedules,” Falkenberg added. “They do a lot of public events. I think it will be difficult to get local law enforcement to support those consistently. Perhaps one answer is going to be Congress, which is easily able to fund all these programs. Because, number one, they are the people in danger and, number two, they hold the purse strings – maybe they [can] release money to compensate local law enforcement for providing security."

Some lawmakers are known to carry guns in states or localities where the law permits it. But Capitol Police Chief Terrance Gainer says he does not think it is a good idea for members of Congress to carry guns for personal protection.

You May Like

Afghanistan, Pakistan Leaders to Hold Icebreaking Talks in Paris

Two sides are expected to discuss ways to ease bilateral tensions and jointly work for resumption of stalled peace talks between Afghan government and Taliban officials

Corruption Busting Is Her Game

South African activist is building 'international online community of thousands of corruption fighters'

Former SAF Businessman Gives Books, Love of Reading to Students

Steve Tsakaris now involved in nonprofit Read to Rise, which distributes books in Soweto, encourages lower-grade primary school students to read

This forum has been closed.
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Belgium-Germany Border Remains Porous, Even As Manhunt For Paris Attacker Continuesi
Ayesha Tanzeem
November 25, 2015 10:46 PM
One of the suspected gunmen in the Nov. 13 Paris attacks, Salah Abdeslam, evaded law enforcement, made his way to Belgium, and is now believed to have fled to Germany. VOA correspondent Ayesha Tanzeem makes the journey across the border from Belgium into Germany to see how porous the borders really are.

Video Belgium-Germany Border Remains Porous, Even As Manhunt For Paris Attacker Continues

One of the suspected gunmen in the Nov. 13 Paris attacks, Salah Abdeslam, evaded law enforcement, made his way to Belgium, and is now believed to have fled to Germany. VOA correspondent Ayesha Tanzeem makes the journey across the border from Belgium into Germany to see how porous the borders really are.

Video Islamic State Unfazed by Losses in Iraq, Syria

Progress in the U.S.-led effort to beat Islamic State on its home turf in Iraq and Syria has led some to speculate the terror group may be growing desperate. But counterterror officials say that is not the case, and warn the recent spate of terror attacks is merely part of the group’s evolution. VOA National Security correspondent Jeff Seldin has more.

Video Taiwan Looks for Role in South China Sea Dispute

The Taiwanese government is one of several that claims territory in the hotly contested South China Sea, but Taipei has long been sidelined in the dispute, overshadowed by China. Now, as the Philippines challenges Beijing’s claims in an international court at The Hague, Taipei is looking to publicly assert its claims. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.

Video Syrian Refugees in US Express Concern for Those Left Behind

Syrian immigrants in the United States are concerned about the negative tide of public opinion and the politicians who want to block a U.S. plan to accept 10,000 Syrian refugees. Zlatica Hoke reports many Americans are fighting to dispel suspicions linking refugees to terrorists.

Video After Paris Attacks, France Steps Up Fight Against IS

The November 13 Paris attacks have drawn increased attention to Syria, where many of the suspected perpetrators are said to have received training. French President Francois Hollande is working to build a broad international coalition to defeat Islamic State in Syria and in Iraq. Zlatica Hoke reports.

Video US, Cambodian Navies Pair Up in Gulf of Thailand

The U.S. Navy has deployed one of its newest and most advanced ships to Cambodia to conduct joint training drills in the Gulf of Thailand. Riding hull-to-hull with Cambodian ships, the seamen of the USS Fort Worth are executing joint-training drills that will help build relations in Southeast Asia. David Boyle reports for VOA from Preah Sihanouk province.

Video Americans Sharpen Focus on Terrorism

Washington will be quieter than usual this week due to the Thanksgiving holiday, even as Americans across the nation register heightened concerns over possible terrorist threats. VOA’s Michael Bowman reports new polling data from ABC News and the Washington Post newspaper show an electorate increasingly focused on security issues after the deadly Islamic State attacks in Paris.

Video World Leaders Head to Paris for Climate Deal

Heads of state from nearly 80 countries are heading to Paris (November 30-December 11) to craft a global climate change agreement. The new accord will replace the Kyoto Protocol on Climate Change that expired in 2012.

Video Uncertain Future for Syrian Refugee Resettlement in Illinois

For the trickle of Syrian refugees finding new homes in the Midwest city of Chicago, the call to end resettlement in many U.S. states is adding another dimension to their long journey fleeing war. Organizations working to help them integrate say the backlash since the Paris attacks is both harming and helping their efforts to provide refugees sanctuary. VOA's Kane Farabaugh reports.

Video Creating Physical Virtual Reality With Tiny Drones

As many computer gamers know, virtual reality is a three-dimensional picture, projected inside special googles. It can fool your brain into thinking the computer world is the real world. But If you try to touch it, it’s not there. Now Canadian researchers say it may be possible to create a physical virtual reality using tiny drones. VOA’s George Putic reports.

Video New American Indian Village Takes Visitors Back in Time

There is precious little opportunity to experience what life was like in the United States before its colonization by European settlers. Now, an American Indian village built in a park outside Washington is taking visitors back in time to experience the way of life of America's indigenous people. Carol Pearson narrates this report from VOA's June Soh.

Video Even With Hometown Liberated, Yazidi Refugees Fear Return

While the northern Iraqi town of Sinjar has been liberated from Islamic State forces, it's not clear whether Yazidi residents who fled the militants will now return home. VOA’s Mahmut Bozarslan talked with Yazidis, a religious and ethnic minority, at a Turkish refugee camp in Diyarbakır. Robert Raffaele narrates his report.

Video Nairobi Tailors Make Pope Francis’ Vestments

To ensure the pope is properly attired during his visit, the Kenya Conference of Catholic Bishops asked the Dolly Craft Sewing Project in the Nairobi slum of Kangemi to make the pope's vestments, the garments he will wear during the various ceremonies. Jill Craig reports.

Video Cross-Border Terrorism Puts Europe’s Passport-Free Travel in Doubt

The fallout from the Islamic State terror attacks in Paris has put the future of Europe’s passport-free travel area, known as the "Schengen Zone," in doubt. Several of the perpetrators were known to intelligence agencies, but were not intercepted. Henry Ridgwell reports from London European ministers are to hold an emergency meeting Friday in Brussels to look at ways of improving security.

Video El Niño Brings Unexpected Fish From Mexico to California

Fish in an unexpected spectrum of sizes, shapes and colors are moving north, through El Niño's warm currents from Mexican waters to the Pacific Ocean off California’s coast. El Nino is the periodic warming of the eastern and central Pacific Ocean. As Faiza Elmasry tells us, this phenomenon thrills scientists and gives anglers the chance of a once-in-a-lifetime big catch. Faith Lapidus narrates.

Video Terrorism in Many Forms Continues to Plague Africa

While the world's attention is on Paris in the wake of Friday night's deadly attacks, terrorism from various sides remains a looming threat in many African countries. Nigerian cities have been targeted this week by attacks many believe were staged by the violent Islamist group Boko Haram. In addition, residents in many regions are forced to flee their homes as they are terrorized by armed militias. Zlatica Hoke reports.

Video Study: Underage Marriage Rate Higher for Females in Pakistan

While attitudes about the societal role of females in Pakistan are evolving, research by child advocacy group Plan International suggests that underage marriage of girls remains a particularly big issue in the country. VOA’s Ayesha Tanzeem reports how such marriages leads to further social problems.

VOA Blogs