Details of Security Breaches Evolve 10/01 07:15
The embarrassing disclosures about lapses in presidential security just keep
coming for the Secret Service.
WASHINGTON (AP) -- The embarrassing disclosures about lapses in presidential
security just keep coming for the Secret Service.
Despite more than three hours of questioning by House lawmakers on Tuesday,
Secret Service Director Julia Pierson neglected to mention another security
breach that occurred just days before a knife-carrying Army veteran climbed
over the White House fence and sprinted into the executive mansion.
On Sept. 16, an armed security contractor with three convictions for assault
and battery rode on an elevator with President Barack Obama and his security
detail at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta, violating
Secret Service protocol. The Washington Examiner and The Washington Post
reported the details of that breach just hours after Pierson left a House
A Secret Service spokesman confirmed the Atlanta elevator incident late
Tuesday but did not elaborate, citing an ongoing investigation of the episode.
It was not clear whether the president or Pierson herself knew about the
incident until recently.
Pierson got a vote of low confidence from the lawmakers, who called for
additional reviews into the agency's poor response. The chairman of the House
committee with oversight responsibilities for the Secret Service called for an
independent commission to do a "top-to-bottom" review of the agency.
"I am deeply concerned with the lack of transparency from the Secret Service
regarding the recent security breach at the White House," Rep. Michael McCaul,
R-Texas, the chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee, said of the
Sept. 19 incident. "This latest episode adds to the growing list of failures
from an agency plagued by operational challenges, cultural problems and
At Tuesday's hearing, Pierson said she is the one who briefs Obama on
threats to his personal security and said she had briefed him only once this
year, "for the Sept. 19 incident." She also disclosed that shortly before the
alleged intruder, Omar J. Gonzalez, scaled the fence at least two of her
uniformed officers recognized him from an earlier troubling encounter but did
not approach him or report his presence to superiors.
On Aug. 25, Gonzalez was stopped while carrying a small hatchet near the
fence south of the White House, Pierson said.
Lawmakers were aghast, too, about a four-day delay in 2011 before the Secret
Service realized a man had fired a high-powered rifle at the White House, as
reported by the Post on Sunday.
Pierson told the hearing the security plan for protecting the White House
was not "properly executed" on Sept. 19 when the intruder sprinted across the
White House North Lawn and through the unlocked front door of the mansion,
knocking over a Secret Service officer and then running past the staircase that
leads to the first family's residential quarters. He ran through the East Room
before being tackled by a Secret Service agent near the entrance to the Green
Room. The Post reported Tuesday that the agent was off duty at the time and
just happened to be in the area.
The Secret Service's story about the extent of that breach changed late
Monday night after the Post reported that Gonzalez got well past the front door
of the White House. Previously it had said Gonzalez had been stopped just
inside the front door. After hours of questioning Tuesday, it remained unclear
what and when Pierson and Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson knew about
the incident. The Secret Service is part of the Homeland Security Department.
Three days after the breach, Johnson described it as "events on the North
Lawn of the White House."
No one has been fired or demoted since the Sept. 19 White House intrusion.
Pierson said she was conducting an internal review to determine the facts.
Wednesday marks day 12 of that review. Pierson did not say when it was expected
to be completed, but said the results would guide any security adjustments and
personnel actions "that are necessary to properly ensure the safety and
security of the president and first family and the White House."
Gonzalez was indicted Tuesday and was scheduled to appear Wednesday before
Magistrate Judge Deborah A. Robinson in U.S. District Court.