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

Multimedia

Audio
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

Obama: Alaskans Feel Signs of Climate Change

They're seeing bigger storm surges as sea ice melts, more wildfires, erosion of glaciers, shorelines More

Katrina Brought Enduring Changes to New Orleans

The city’s recovery is the result of the people and culture the city is famous for, as well as newcomers and start-up industries More

Magical Photo Slides Show Native Americans in Late 1800s

Walter McClintock spent 20 years photographing the Blackfoot Indians and their vanishing culture at the dawn of the modern age More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
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.
Colombians Flee Venezuela as Border Crisis Escalatesi
X
August 27, 2015 2:08 AM
Hundreds of Colombians have fled Venezuela since last week, amid an escalating border crisis between the two countries. Last week, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro ordered the closure of a key border crossing after smugglers injured three Venezuelan soldiers and a civilian. The president also ordered the deportation of Colombians who are in Venezuela illegally. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Colombians Flee Venezuela as Border Crisis Escalates

Hundreds of Colombians have fled Venezuela since last week, amid an escalating border crisis between the two countries. Last week, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro ordered the closure of a key border crossing after smugglers injured three Venezuelan soldiers and a civilian. The president also ordered the deportation of Colombians who are in Venezuela illegally. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Is China's Economic Data Accurate?

Some investors say China's wild stock market gyrations have been made worse by worries about the reliability of that nation's economic data. And some critics say the reports can mislead investors by painting an unrealistically-strong picture of the economy. A key China scholar says Beijing is not fudging ((manipulating)) the numbers, but that the economy is evolving quickly from smoke-stack industries to services, and the ways of tracking new economic activity are falling behind the change. V
Video

Video Next to Iran, Climate at Forefront of Obama Agenda

President Barack Obama this week announced new initiatives aimed at making it easier for Americans to access renewable energy sources such as solar and wind. Obama is not slowing down when it comes to pushing through climate change measures, an issue he says is the greatest threat to the country’s national security. VOA correspondent Aru Pande has more from the White House.
Video

Video Shipping Containers Provide Experimental Housing

Housing prices around the San Francisco Bay area are out of reach for many people, so some young entrepreneurs, artists and tech industry workers are creating their own houses using converted shipping containers. But as VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports from Oakland, the effort requires ingenuity and dealing with restrictive local laws.
Video

Video Arctic Draws International Competition for Oil

A new geopolitical “Great Game” is underway in earth’s northernmost region, the Arctic, where Russia has claimed a large area for resource development and President Barack Obama recently approved Shell Oil Company’s test-drilling project in an area under U.S. control. Greg Flakus reports.
Video

Video Philippine Maritime Police: Chinese Fishermen a Threat to Country’s Security

China and the Philippines both claim maritime rights in the South China Sea.  That includes the right to fish in those waters. Jason Strother reports on how the Philippines is catching Chinese nationals it says are illegal poachers. He has the story from Palawan province.
Video

Video Technique May Eliminate Drill-and-Fill Dental Care

Many people dread visiting dentists because they're afraid of drills. Now, however, a technology developed by a British firm promises to eliminate the need for mechanical cleaning of dental cavities by speeding a natural process of tooth repair. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video China's Spratly Island Building Said to Light Up the Night 'Like A City'

Southeast Asian countries claim China has illegally seized territory in the Spratly islands. It is especially a concern for a Philippine mayor who says Beijing is occupying parts of his municipality. Jason Strother reports from the capital of Palawan province, Puerto Princesa.
Video

Video Ages-old Ice Reveals Secrets of Climate Change

Ice caps don't just exist at the world's poles. There are also tropical ice caps, and the largest sits atop the Peruvian Andes - but it is melting, quickly, and may be gone within the next 20 years. George Putic reports scientists are now rushing to take samples to get at the valuable information about climate change locked in the ice.
Video

Video French Experiment in Integrating Roma Under Threat

Plans to destroy France’s oldest slum have sparked an outcry on the part of its Roma residents. As Lisa Bryant reports from the Paris suburb of La Courneuve, rights groups argue the community is a fledgling experiment on integrating Roma who are often outcasts in many parts of Europe.
Video

Video Kenyans Turn to Agriculture for Business

Each year Kenyan universities continue to churn out graduates for the job market despite the already existing high rate of unemployment among youth in the country. Some of these young men and women have realized that agriculture can be as rewarding as any other business or job, and they are resorting to agribusiness in large numbers as a way of tackling unemployment. Rael Ombuor reports for VOA.
Video

Video First Women Graduate Elite Army Ranger School

Two women are making history for the U.S. Army by proving they are among the toughest of the tough. VOA's Carla Babb reports from Fort Benning, Georgia as 94 men and those two women rise as graduates of the difficult Ranger school.

VOA Blogs