Freshman Rep. Grimm: Low-Cost Ways To Make Congress More Secure

Rep. Michael Grimm (R-N.Y.), a former FBI Special Agent and combat Marine, sent a letter to House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) Tuesday night recommending security training for Members of Congress.

Grimm is against knee-jerk legislation in the aftermath of the attempted assassination of Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D-Ariz.) last Saturday, but does suggest that Members get trained to protect themselves.

In an exclusive interview with HUMAN EVENTS on his security plan, Grimm said, “Legislation within days of an incident as shocking and horrific as this is a mistake.”

“Some have called for more gun control laws, or a security detail for every Member of Congress in their district — those are examples of legislation that are reactionary to such a horrific event,” said Grimm in his new, undecorated congressional office. 

The former undercover FBI agent said that his colleagues’ initial “intentions are great. My immediate instincts were the same — to protect, not just the Members, but also their volunteers and their constituents in their vicinity.”

Grimm wants the leadership and Members to avoid making rash decisions out of fear, and to let the law enforcement professionals handle the case.

“When you are trained and have been involved in tragic incidents, you don’t react. You take a step back. And you evaluate. And you assess what happened, how it happened, and what could have been done to prevent it. And that’s a long process,” explained Grimm. 

“We should allow the Capitol Police and the FBI to investigate, and let the experts give us their recommendation, then come back to Congress and say to us, ‘This is what we have assessed and what we have recommended,’” said the Staten Island Congressman.

“And maybe down the road, we evaluate, and the Capitol Police come up with something more appropriate, that’s even a little bit more expensive, that’s fine. We can debate it. And we can talk about it, and see what Members are comfortable with doing,” he said.

While law enforcement is investigating the Arizona shooting, Grimm said “there are some basic, simple things that we can do to make everyone safer, but which don’t require legislation and changing the way Congress is conducting business,” he said.

Grimm’s offered his expertise as a former law enforcement. “As a professional, I’d say we are our best security guard. It’s incumbent upon each and every one of us to raise our awareness of our surroundings,” he said. “I have a heightened sense of awareness because I’m a former undercover FBI agent, and I’ve had to divulge my real identity after those cases.”

He said that being a public figure comes with risk. “Every Member of Congress is going to go out and talk to the public. And there’s always danger in that. As many precautions as you can do, if someone is crazy enough, and dedicated enough, there’s nothing you can do.”

However, he said all Members can easily learn basic skills to protect themselves in public. “You don’t have to be trained as a special ops Marine, or a Navy SEAL, or a Special Agent of the FBI to do some very basic things, he said. “Be aware of your surroundings. Know where the exits are. Know where the security is — whether the local police or private security.”

He recommends that every Member have someone on staff with a law enforcement background. Grimm has a retired detective on his congressional staff, whom he tasked with briefing his offices after the Giffords’ shooting. He said both Members and staff should “know what to do if a tragedy strikes. Know who the point person is who is going to call 911.”

In his letter to Boehner, Grimm recommended the following:

* New Member orientation include a formal security training program where freshmen receive briefings and reference documents related to their personal security and that of their, family, staff, and constituents.

* Briefings and training can be done easily and cost effectively by the Office of the Sergeant at Arms and the U.S. Capitol Police

* Security briefings integrated into all Member briefings on a quarterly basis every session. 

* Training would be security-based situational awareness training, done in simple, seminar-like session, and would use supporting hand-outs.

Grimm is resolute that these basic security changes should not affect how Members of Congress spend time with the American people.

“The relationship between a Congressman and his constituents is very close. Town halls, constantly being out there, that’s how you get the pulse of the people. You know what’s really happening in your district is by interacting with them,” he said, leaning forward in his chair for emphasis. “That should not change. And the institution of the House of Representatives must be maintained.”

But, he added solemnly, “You accept when you take the job that you are increasing the amount of danger you’re being exposed to.

“Unless these Members plan on secluding themselves in a bunker, they will still have to live a normal life,” Grimm said. “There’s danger all around us. We do the best we can. And the rest is in God’s hands.”