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It is stories like this that worry me

December 15, 2013
By CRAIG HOWELL , Weirton Daily Times

Do you think the fake interpreter at Nelson Mandella's memorial service would have been better off had he simply said he crashed the event?

We've probably all heard about the man by now. He somehow managed to not only get into the service, but become part of it by providing sign language, all within reach of many world leaders.

The problem, of course, is that he is not really an interpreter and doesn't even know sign language.

That is bad enough. Whether you agree with any of these leaders, their politics, their decisions, or even like the countries they represent, the thought of someone who is not supposed to be around them getting that close is scary.

But then, he admitted to not only not knowing sign language, but that he has been diagnosed as schizophrenic, spent time in a mental hospital and thought he saw angels descending into the memorial site while up on stage.

Now, there are reports that he may have been suspected in a murder case several years ago.

I would wonder what would have happened had he, upon being questioned, simply said, "OK. You caught me. I just wanted to crash the service and managed to talk my way in. I'm sorry."

But, he mentioned his past mental health issues and now we're seeing some new development every day.

It should not be this easy for someone to just walk off the streets and get so close to so many heads of state.

This isn't the 19th Century where someone could just walk into the White House and ask to the see the president. There are many more threats in this world and security precautions need to be taken.

If I?risk getting frisked just to get on an airplane, then special measures definitely should be made for something like this where the possibility of certain "political statements" could be made.

As a journalist, I've seen heightened security at a few local events. Several years ago, when John Edwards, then the vice presidential candidate on the Democratic ticket, stopped in ?Weirton for a campaign appearance, I watched as television journalists had to leave their cameras and other equipment to be checked by canine units with the Secret Service.

Just to get into a room with Edwards and ask a single question, background checks were performed on each selected individual.

More precautions have been taken when current and former presidents have visited the area.

So, yes, it astounds me that we're hearing about a man who was not only able to sneak into such an event, but actually get up close to so many of these high-profile officials.

The strange thing is that I don't recall hearing much about the investigation into the security personnel who let him in. The news reports all seem to be focused entirely on this man.

Did he sneak in with one of the contingents? Was bribery involved? Did he maybe just know someone who let him in as a favor, not knowing what he planned to do?

Whatever the answer, it shows there were issues with the security at this event. That should be a concern to everyone when the possibility exists that the leadership of so many nations could literally be taken out in a matter of moments.

Whatever the story is, it shows that nothing is infallible. Comedians have been poking fun at the situation, and sometimes it is good to have a laugh at the world's events. This is probably not one of those times, though.

Fortunately, nothing else happened and everyone made it through the service safely, with a few even taking a couple "selfies" while they were hanging out.

We don't need some kind of security net over the nation, with the government running our lives.

I don't know why or how the security breakdown took place, but I would hope it would serve as a warning for the future.

In the meantime, I have to have my fingerprint scanned to help get me into the Magic Kingdom. Maybe big brother just had his eye pointed in the wrong direction that day.

(Howell, a resident of Colliers, is managing editor of The Weirton Daily Times, and can be contacted at chowell@weirtondailytimes.com or followed on Twitter @CHowellWDT)

 
 

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