WASHINGTON DC, US – The US Secret Service has launched a comprehensive review of White House security procedures after an intruder scaled a fence, sprinted across the lawn and gained entry to the presidential residence.
The White House – both the workplace and home for the president – is generally regarded as one of the most secure and protected places on the planet.
Secret Service officials said it is troubling that the fence jumper, identified as Omar Gonzalez, was able late Friday to enter the building unimpeded.
"Although last night the officers showed tremendous restraint and discipline in dealing with this subject, the location of Gonzalez's arrest is not acceptable," said the statement released by the Secret Service late Saturday, September 20, noting that he was restrained only after entering the White House North Portico doors.
An agency within the Department of Homeland Security, the Secret Service is tasked with protecting America's highest elected officials and visiting foreign officials, and securing events of national significance.
The investigation was ordered by Secret Service Director Julia Pierson, whose office said that the review's findings would be submitted to DHS Secretary Jeh Johnson.
The Secret Service statement said the review commenced late Friday, with a physical assessment of the site and personnel interviews, and would encompass "all operational policies and security procedures during this process."
In the interim, Pierson has "ordered the immediate enhancement of officer patrols and surveillance capabilities along the Pennsylvania Avenue fence line around the White House complex," the statement said, adding that the measures went into effect late Friday.
President Barack Obama and his family were not home at the time, though officials and journalists were rushed out of the building during the disturbance that began on the North Lawn around 7:20 pm (2320 GMT) Friday, the Secret Service said.
Minutes earlier, the first family had left by helicopter from the South Lawn headed for Camp David, the presidential weekend retreat, and were still there on Saturday, officials said.
A trespasser arrested
The announcement of the internal Secret Service probe came the same day as a second, less serious incident, when a man was arrested at the White House and charged with trespassing.
Secret Service spokesman Brian Leary told AFP that a man was placed under arrest when he turned up in his car a short time after being denied entrance at a pedestrian access point.
The man had originally approached a gate on the northwest side of the White House on foot but "was sent on his way by our uniformed division," Leary said.
However, he later tried to gain access to the vehicle entrance point on another side of the White House.
"He doesn't hit the barriers, he gets out of his vehicle, he's compliant -- but he was in a restricted area and he was told not to be there, so he was arrested," said Leary.
"He was charged with unlawful entry," Leary said, adding that the individual, Kevin Carr of Shamong, New Jersey, was subsequently transferred to the custody of local District of Columbia police.
Compared to the security breach one day earlier, officials said Saturday's incident was a relatively minor affair.
"This is an everyday occurrence," another Secret Service spokesman, Ed Donovan, told AFP, adding that at no point did Carr attempt to enter White House grounds.
"It's being overblown," he said, as US media quickly ramped up coverage of the incident. – Rappler.com