Head of Secret Service to Face Tough Questions From Lawmakers on White House Security Breach

Katie Pavlich
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Posted: Sep 30, 2014 8:20 AM
Head of Secret Service to Face Tough Questions From Lawmakers on White House Security Breach

Secret Service Director Julia Pierson will face tough questions from lawmakers on the House Oversight Committee shortly after new details emerged that the agency wasn't upfront about how severe the latest security breach at the White House really was. 

Yesterday the Washington Post reported fence jumper Omar Gonzalez, who was carrying a knife and had 800-rounds of ammunition in his vehicle, made it all the way into the Green Room of the White House and half-way up the stairs to the quarters of the first family. Initially, the Secret Service said Gonzalez had only made it just inside the North Portico doors.

The man who jumped the White House fence this month and sprinted through the front door made it much farther into the building than previously known, overpowering one Secret Service officer and running through much of the main floor, according to three people familiar with the incident. An alarm box near the front entrance of the White House designed to alert guards to an intruder had been muted at what officers believed was a request of the usher’s office, said a Secret Service official who spoke on the condition of anonymity. The female officer posted inside the front door appeared to be delayed in learning that the intruder, Omar Gonzalez, was about to burst through. Officers are trained that, upon learning of an intruder on the grounds, often through the alarm boxes posted around the property, they must immediately lock the front door.

After barrelling past the guard immediately inside the door, Gonzalez, who was carrying a knife, dashed past the stairway leading a half-flight up to the first family’s living quarters. He then ran into the 80-foot-long East Room, an ornate space often used for receptions or presidential addresses. Gonzalez was tackled by a counter-assault agent at the far southern end of the East Room. The intruder reached the doorway to the Green Room, a parlor overlooking the South Lawn with artwork and antique furniture, according to three people familiar with the incident.

Pierson will surely face a grilling about why the Secret Service jumped to cover-up the incident on top of questions about how the incident could have ever happened in the first place. There will no doubt be follow-up hearings about the incident as well.

Pierson was appointed by President Obama in March 2013 to head the agency after fall-out from the Colombian prostitute scandal. She is the first female director in history for the agency.

"Julia is eminently qualified to lead the agency that not only safeguards Americans at major events and secures our financial system, but also protects our leaders and our first families, including my own,” Obama said in a statement at the time. 

We'll see if President Obama, who is defending the agency, has the same level of confidence in Pierson after testimony today. The hearing starts at 10 a.m. ET. You can watch live here.