A knife-wielding intruder allowed to run rampant through the first floor of the White House. Bullets that struck the window of Barack Obama’s private residence but went unnoticed for days. A presidential bodyguard so drunk he passed out in hallway of a hotel.
These are just some of the recent incidents that have shaken confidence in the Secret Service, the elite agency assigned to protect Mr Obama, his family and the White House.
On Tuesday, Julia Pierson, the Secret Service’s director, will face a grilling from members of Congress and a battle to convince them that her agents are up to the task of protecting the world’s most powerful man.
The hearing was called after a September 19 incident, when the Secret Service allowed Omar Gonzales, a troubled Iraq war veteran, to scale the White House fence and go through the unlocked front door of the executive mansion.
Gonzales, who was carrying a knife in his pocket, was apparently intent on warning Mr Obama that “the atmosphere was collapsing”.
Footage shows him limping across the White House’s north lawn, unchallenged by agents on the ground or the sharpshooters on the roof.
He then burst past a guard and ran through the White House’s first floor before finally being tackled in the East Room, a gilded space where Mr Obama often gives speeches and press conferences, according to the Washington Post.
But members of Congress will have questions about the Secret Service’s competence beyond this month’s incident.
Gonzales was arrested in July with 11 guns in his car, including high-power rifles with scopes, and a map on which he had drawn a line to the White House. He was let free but weeks later was stopped outside the White House with a hatchet tucked inside his trousers. Again, he was let go.
His breach of the White House’s elaborate security perimeter is just the latest in a series of mistakes made by an agency that prides itself on silent professionalism.
• In 2011, a gunman opened fire on the White House with a semi-automatic rifle. Seven rounds hit the walls and windows of the First Family’s residence while the Obama’s youngest daughter, Sasha, was inside.
Agents reported shots were fired but supervisors told them to stand down and the gunman sped away. It wasn’t until four days later that a cleaner noticed broken glass and the Secret Service realised the White House had been struck. Both Mr Obama and his wife, Michelle, were furious at their bodyguards’ handling of the incident, according to the Washington Post.
• The American public first learned the phrase “wheels up party” in 2012. The term refers to agents’ often-drunken celebrations in a foreign country after a successful overseas trip by the President.
But during Mr Obama’s visit to Cartegena, Colombia, his bodyguards didn’t wait until the President had left town. Eleven agents were sent home after some allegedly drank and slept with prostitutes in the week leading up to Mr Obama’s visit. The Secret Service promised reform but a similar incident unfolded in Amsterdam in March when one agent was so drunk they passed out in a hotel hallway.
• Less than a year after Mr Obama took office in 2009, he hosted a lavish state dinner for the Indian prime minister, inviting many of Washington’s most notable figures to attend.
But among the dignitaries were Michaele and Tareq Salahi, a Virginia couple who had dressed up for the event but had no invitation. They passed easily through the Secret Service cordon and photos later showed them smiling alongside Mr Obama and his top aides.
The ease with which the “party crashers” entered the White House exposed the Secret Service to ridicule but also raised serious questions about security.
Mr Obama is said to face an unprecedented level of death threats – both from right-wing extremists and Islamist militants – and the misfires by the Secret Service have dented the agency’s projection of invincibility.
Publicly, the White House insists it still has faith in the President’s phalanx of bodyguards.
“Their task is incredible, and the burden that they bear is incredible,” said Tony Blinken, a senior presidential aide. “The Secret Service is investigating this and they will take any steps necessary to correct any deficiency.”
But Ms Pierson will struggle to convince sceptical members of Congress that the President’s life is in safe hands, said Ronald Kessler, author of In the President’s Secret Service: Behind the Scenes with Agents in the Line of Fire and the Presidents They Protect.
“There’s nothing she can do to dispel the obvious conclusion that the Secret Service is crumbling,” he said.