Guards Fault DHS' Own Protection

Claims say that top security department needs to review its own security procedures


Homeland Security spokesman Brian Doyle said Wackenhut guards are still operating under a contract signed with the Navy, and the agency has little control over their training. A soon-to-be-implemented replacement contract will impose new requirements on security guards, he said.

Daniels, the former guard who responded to the white powder incident, said the area where the powder was found wasn't evacuated for more than an hour. Available biohazard face shields went unused.

Doyle said the concerns were overblown because all mail going to the Homeland Security complex is irradiated to kill anthrax. He said "the incident was resolved before anything was moved."

Daniels said that after the envelope was taken outside, and the order finally given to evacuate the potentially infected area, employees had already gone to lunch and had to be rounded up and quarantined.

Former guard Bryan Adams recognized his inadequate training one day last August, when an employee reported a suspicious bag in the parking lot.

"I didn't have a clue about what to do," he said.

Adams said he closed the vehicle checkpoint with a cone, walked over to the bag and called superiors. Nobody cordoned off the area. Eventually, someone called a federal bomb squad, which arrived more than an hour after the discovery.

"If the bag had, in fact, contained the explosive device that was anticipated, the bomb could have detonated several times over in the hour that the bag sat there," Adams said.

The bag, it turned out, contained gym clothes.

Doyle, the Homeland spokesman, responded to several allegations raised by the guards. He said dogs were replaced because, "If you overuse them, their effectiveness drops." The detection equipment that substitutes for the dogs is a better method for detecting explosives, he said.

Guards who used the equipment said it was no match for the reliability of the dogs.

The Associated Press videotaped two vehicle entrances at Homeland headquarters with light security.

One is guarded only during morning and evening rush hours. Movable metal barriers and an unmanned security vehicle only partially blocked the driveway, leaving enough room for a small car or motorcycle to drive through.

Another entrance was guarded with a manned vehicle with two guards, but no other barriers.

Doyle said the vehicle entrances were adequate because in all cases, a 10-foot fence topped with barbed wire separates vehicles from all buildings.

Some guards who continue to work at Homeland, who would speak only on condition of anonymity because of fear of losing their jobs, said they knew of two instances in which individuals without identification got into the sensitive complex.

Another described how guards flunked a test by the Secret Service, which sent vehicles into the compound with dummy government identification tags hanging from inside mirrors. Guards cleared such vehicles through on two occasions, this guard said, and one officer even copied down the false information without realizing it was supposed to match information on the employee's government badge.

Doyle, the agency spokesman, said such tests are conducted routinely and "I can assure you that if people fail the test they are let go."

Marixa Farrar, a former guard, said two guards always should have been stationed inside the main building where Chertoff had his office, but she often was on duty alone.

One day last fall a fire alarm rang. As employees walked by Farrar, they asked if this was a fire or a test.

"There were no radios, so I couldn't figure out if it was a serious alarm," she said.

There was no fire.


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