Secret Service braces for intense year

Authorities on Wednesday arrested a man who might have been involved in a shooting that broke a White House window.

The arrest comes as the Secret Service gears up for what it expects to be an intense year, providing both President Obama and as many as eight Republican presidential candidates with protection.

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There are 16 declared contenders running for the GOP nomination. Of those, about eight have the polling numbers to indicate they are popular enough to have a chance at waging a successful campaign.

A spokesman for the Secret Service declined to say how many GOP candidates the agency was protecting or who among them had requested protection.

Testifying before Congress about its fiscal 2012 budget, the Secret Service said it expects a “very demanding and challenging year” and has requested $113 million to pay for protection of the presidential candidates.

In his bid for the White House, Obama became the earliest candidate to receive the Secret Service’s protection, getting it 18 months before the 2008 election. Nearly one year later, Republican nominee Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) began receiving Secret Service protection.

Polls showing voter pessimism about the state of economy and record low approval ratings indicate a growing frustration with politicians. An incident near the White House this week could foreshadow the difficulties the agency will face.

On Tuesday, agents discovered a bullet that broke a pane of the White House’s exterior glass before being stopped by a second pane of stronger glass.

Authorities are investigating whether the bullet was fired in an incident last Friday when shots were heard several hundred yards away from the White House near the National Mall. The Secret Service did not comment on why the bullet had been found three days after the shooting.

But acting on information from the Secret Service, the Pennsylvania State Police arrested Oscar Ortega-Hernandez, 21, on Wednesday afternoon at a hotel near Indiana, Pa.

The Secret Service has opened an investigation into Ortega-Hernandez and is expected to question him about any possible threat he might pose to Obama. He has an arrest record in three states and was believed to be living in the D.C. area.

The Secret Service said it is unclear whether Ortega-Hernandez was involved in a shooting on Friday.

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Another bullet was found on the exterior of the White House, according to the Secret Service, which is investigating the matter with the U.S. Park Police, the FBI, the D.C. police department and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.

After Friday evening’s shooting, police discovered an abandoned vehicle near the Theodore Roosevelt Bridge and the Lincoln Memorial. An AK-47 assault rifle was found in the car, according to multiple news sources.

Park Police issued a warrant for the arrest of Ortega-Hernandez based on the evidence allegedly found in the vehicle.

Obama and the first lady were not in any danger from the shooting. They had traveled to California last Friday and from there flew to Hawaii. On Tuesday the first lady returned to the White House, while Obama headed to Australia.

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