Senate Sergeant-at-Arms Terrance Gainer said hed like to improve monitoring of social media for possible threats against lawmakers.
But the challenge, he added, is making sense of the voluminous, and often bizarre, online material.
“It’s complicated, there’s a lot of it, and it might be like a dog chasing a car: What will it do if it catches one?” he said. “But it needs to be done.”
Gainer has asked that Senators appoint one person in each of the 454 nationwide offices to be in charge of security at events. His approach is more laissez faire than in the House, where more than 300 offices have complied with Livingood’s recommendation not just to appoint a law enforcement coordinator, but to register that staffer with the Office of the Sergeant-at-Arms.
The Sergeant-at-Arms’ website has a section with information for the designated staffers, including a template letter to send to local law enforcement.
Members can spend a portion of their representational allowances to train the staffer in CPR, mental health or other necessary information. House Administration Committee aides have said that a training webinar might be in the works, too.
But that leaves more than 100 offices that have yet to register a staffer.
House Administration Chairman Dan Lungren (R-Calif.) and ranking member Robert Brady (D-Pa.) co-signed a “Dear Colleague” letter March 10 reminding offices to do so.
In an interview, Lungren said he’ll keep sending letters and talking to offices, but the security issue becomes more removed from the forefront as time passes.
“Members of Congress are no different from anyone else. They have busy lives and they get distracted by other things,” he said. “One of my obligations is to remind them, so I’ll keep doing it.”
In a PowerPoint presentation posted on the agency’s website, the House Sergeant-at-Arms Office warned against that very attitude.
“Complacency is the foremost enemy of good security,” the presentation reads. “The more time that passes without incident, the more likely you are to let your guard down.”
Jennifer Riggs said juggling the district director and law enforcement coordinator roles for Rep. Dutch Ruppersberger is not difficult. It basically just involves a phone call to inform police when the Maryland Democrat schedules a district event, she said.
“It doesn’t take up a whole lot of time,” Riggs said. “I think it’s a good position and it’s something we absolutely should be doing in light of what happened out in Arizona.”
She said the district office underwent a threat assessment and she will oversee the implementation of any added security recommendations.
Still, several Congressmen approached on Tuesday said they were unsure whether they had appointed a law enforcement coordinator, indicating that in many offices the issue is being handled at the staff level.
But freshman Rep. Michael Grimm, a former undercover FBI agent, suggested Members take more ownership over their security.
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