Of the many threats received by U.S. President Barack Obama, more than 60 percent of them are issued online, according to the Secret Service, an agency that has faced fierce criticism after a string of recent breaches at the White House in recent weeks brought to light several serious security lapses over the years.
According to lawmakers and private security officials, the Secret Service has not yet effectively adapted to monitor social media platforms, which are being extensively used to target the president, The Washington Post reported. Lawmakers have also urged the agency to sift through all online references to Obama, identify the potentially dangerous ones and take necessary measures by using the information in addition to further intelligence gathered on the ground by conventional methods, according to the report.
“I don’t know if they’ve adapted to these new threats,” Rep. Jason Chaffetz, R-Utah, who chairs the House Oversight and Government Reform subcommittee on national security, told the Post. “The attacks are going to come, no matter what. Are there new and creative ways of detecting them? I’m not convinced they’ve tied those loops.”
Ever since his first run for the presidency, Obama has been the target of a blizzard of threats, including ones related to his race. Although the number of racist threats has now dropped, general threats against the president still continue, with most of them relating to allegations that Obama is misusing his executive powers to defy the U.S. Constitution.
Meanwhile, the Secret Service reportedly admitted that the agency needs to do more to factor in the use of the latest technological developments.
“The capability is there, and we have to evolve with technology as well,” Brian Leary, a spokesman for the Secret Service, told the Post, adding that online threats against Obama “did spike a few months after the election, but they declined back to a level that is consistent with his predecessors, and they still are.”
However, according to other sources cited by the Post, Obama has reportedly been targeted by three times as many threats than his predecessors during his campaign and first year in office. And though that number has declined since then, it is still higher than the number of threats made against previous presidents of the country, the Post reported, adding that at least 65 people have been indicted on charges of threatening to harm Obama since he took office.
In January, a man, who tweeted “im coming to kill you” and “so I gotta kill barack obama first,” was imprisoned for 16 months after pleading guilty. Another man was sentenced to a year in prison in March for a post on the White House website, saying that Obama should be “shot dead” for “breaking the constitution.”
Steve Atkiss, a partner at Command Consulting, an international security and intelligence consulting firm, told the Post that both private and government clients associated with his firm are seeking ways to dig into social media for threat messages.
“One thing those clients have been clamoring for, for several years now, is a tool that would sort through the 50,000 tweets per second that are flying through cyberspace to find what is meaningful to them,” the Post quoted Atkiss as saying. “It’s been a struggle.”