A man, identified as 34-year-old Thamsanqa Jantjie, a South African national posed himself as a deaf interpreter and breached security at Nelson Mandela’s funeral and positioned himself within a few feet of the President of the United States Barack Obama.
The embarrassing revelation raises very serious questions about security at the event, which was attended by over 91 heads of state and government.
Interestingly enough the interpreter, wore the clearance pass of a government official. How exactly he managed that one is a mystery.
The man was only found out after people began to blow up twitter that the deaf signs the man was making were in fact nonsensical and that he was a fraud.
He told reporters later that he was hallucinating and hearing voices at the time, according to one NBC new report (see article: http://worldnews.nbcnews.com/_news/2013/12/12/21871429-sign-language-interpreter-at-mandela-memorial-i-was-hallucinating-hearing-voices).
More worrisome was the fact that the man was overlooked by the United States Secret Service detail of the President, as well the details of agents assigned to protect former President George Bush, and former President Bill Clinton – who apparently relied too much on the integrity of the South African government which was in charge of security at the event.
Security experts I talked with suggest this was a major breach in terms of the security of the President and former Presidents and their families. We called the Secret Service office in Washington and they declined comment in this matter.
I have also contacted a U.S. senator by email to petition support of a Congressional investigation into the failure of the U.S. Secret Service in this case. No word back on that by the way.
It should be noted that the Secret Service is specifically authorized by law (18 United States Code § 3056) to protect:
- The president, the vice president, (or other individuals next in order of succession to the Office of the President), the president-elect and vice president-elect
- The immediate families of the above individuals
- Former presidents and their spouses for their lifetimes, except when the spouse remarries. In 1997, Congressional legislation became effective limiting Secret Service protection to former presidents for a period of not more than 10 years from the date the former president leaves office
- Children of former presidents until age 16
- Visiting heads of foreign states or governments and their spouses traveling with them, other distinguished foreign visitors to the United States, and official representatives of the United States performing special missions abroad
- Major presidential and vice presidential candidates, and their spouses within 120 days of a general presidential election. As defined in statute, the term “major presidential and vice presidential candidates” means those individuals identified as such by the Secretary of Homeland Security after consultation with an advisory committee consisting of the Speaker of the House of Representatives, the minority leader of the House of Representatives, the majority and minority leaders of the Senate, and one additional member selected by the other members of the committee.
- Other individuals as designated per Executive Order of the President
- National Special Security Events, when designated as such by the Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security
Protection has been and remains today a key mission of the United States Secret Service.
See video: President Obama’s speech Nelson Mandela funeral in South Africa http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4vUB363cRqE