The Washington Post

Seventeen minutes. That is a shockingly long time for an intruder to roam undetected on the grounds of the White House while the president is inside the executive mansion. Fortunately, the intruder March 10 was carrying nothing more lethal than two cans of pepper spray. But how could such a breach of security have occurred? Secret Service officials owe an answer.

The security failure, in which a 26-year-old man with a history of mental illness pierced the outer perimeter of the White House near the Treasury Department, renews questions about the Secret Service’s ability to protect the country’s leaders and facilities.

A series of embarrassments, including a 2014 incident in which an intruder with a knife managed to get into the White House before being tackled by an off-duty agent, brought the agency under scrutiny. There followed an overhaul of management that supposedly tightened protections. That makes this latest incident, along with the theft of an agent’s laptop containing sensitive information about Trump Tower, all the more troubling.

“I worry this is the worst one yet,” said Jason Chaffetz, R-Utah, chairman of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform. Chaffetz, describing a surveillance video viewed by the committee Monday in a closed-door briefing, detailed how the intruder cleared a fence and ground barriers, lingered on the south portico of the White House, moved through the south garden and peered in several windows before being apprehended.

Only after Chaffetz raised questions did the Secret Service release a timeline of events disclosing that agents failed to detect the intruder for 17 minutes.

The Secret Service urgently needs to get its house in order. The agency is without a permanent director after the retirement of Joseph Clancy. In choosing a replacement, President Trump would do well to take to heart recommendations about the need for someone from outside the agency to bring a fresh eye to its operation.