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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 
hearing.

   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 
reporting difficulties."

   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.


(KA)


 
 
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