The White House fence jumper who breached security earlier this month made it farther inside than previously reported. The Washington Post claims the intruder overpowered a Secret Service agent and ran through a good portion of the main floor.
At least three unnamed witnesses that are familiar with the incident confirm the report. Secret Service agents guarding the President and his family are trained so that upon learning of a breach of the grounds, they must lock down the front door immediately to prevent the person from getting inside the building.
According to the information provided, the alarm box, located near the front entrance of the White House, was muted when the fence jumper made it inside. An agent — speaking on condition of anonymity — believed the request to mute the alarm came from the usher’s office.
A female Secret Service agent appeared to be delayed in learning that the White House fence jumper, identified as Omar Gonzalez, was about to burst into the building. The man — who was later reported suffers from PTSD and is an Iraq war veteran — charged the front door after running through the north lawn and once inside made it half-a-flight from the Obama’s family apartments.
He ran into the East Room — which is normally used for formal events and receptions and is 80-feet long, the largest room in the White House — and reached the Green Room’s doorway before he was tackled by an agent, according to the witnesses.
It was later revealed that the White House fence jumper was carrying a knife. The Secret Service spokesman, Edwin Donovan, has refused to comment on the discrepancies due to the ongoing investigation. It had been reported that the intruder was stopped before entering the building.
The agency, which is charged with protecting the First Family, has been under intense scrutiny after this latest breach of security at the White House, one of the safest buildings in the world.
Secret Service director Julia Pierson is currently reviewing this and a shooting at the White House in 2011. She is scheduled to testify before a special House committee on Tuesday after the September 19 incident.
Complicating matters, the Post published a new report over the weekend that states that it took the Secret Service four days to realize that the White House had been shot at seven times. This reportedly angered the President and First Lady, who were not at home in 2011. However, one of their daughters was present with her grandmother, Mrs. Obama’s mother.
The chain of events that took place earlier this month reveal several lapses in the protocol followed by the Secret Service.
“In this incident, a plainclothes surveillance team was on duty that night outside the fence, meant to spot jumpers and give early warning before they made it over. When that team didn’t notice Gonzalez, there was an officer in a guard booth on the North Lawn. When that officer couldn’t reach Gonzales, there was supposed to be an attack dog, a specialized SWAT team and a guard at the front door — all at the ready.”
Some people that are familiar with the security breach say that the dog was not used, because the handler likely believed that it could attack any of several officers who were chasing the White House fence jumper down. Since the incident, another temporary fence has been added for extra security.
[Image via Zach Rudisin/Wikipedia]