Secret Service faces new scrutiny following White House breach

The Secret Service is stepping up its patrols around the White House after an intruder was able to scale the fence Friday and make it all the way into the building before being wrestled to the ground by security officers.

In a statement Saturday afternoon, the agency disclosed that it has implemented an "immediate enhancement of officer patrols and surveillance capabilities along the Pennsylvania Avenue fence line around the White House complex."


The statement praised the officers who responded for showing "tremendous restraint and discipline in dealing with this subject" but declared the ability of the intruder to get all of the way into the front door "not acceptable."

The agency made the announcment late Saturday, hours after a man was arrested in a second security incident after he drove into a gated area at 15th and E streets NW and refused to leave. The man did not get onto the White House grounds, Secret Service spokesman Edwin Donovan said.

Donovan said the man, who was not immediately identified, had first approached one of the White House gates on foot and "was sent on his way." He has been charged with trespassing.

Earlier, some members of Congress said the Friday incident raises fresh questions about the competency of the Secret Service, which has been battered by scandal in recent years.

Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah), chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform subcommittee on national security, wrote on Twitter on Saturday that "Reports of White House fence jumper getting as far as he did are TOTALLY UNACCEPTABLE."

Chaffetz went on: "This is not the first time Secret Service has shown too much vulnerability. There are other unreported incidents. I will continue to push."

Secret Service officials vowed the incident would be thoroughly investigated.

Friday's breach involved an intruder climbing the fence on the north side of the White House, where protesters frequently gather, and sprinting roughly 100 yards and into the front door while officers gave chase.

"Was the door open?" Chaffetz wrote. "Seriously. It was open?"

It was only the lastest embarrassment for the agency.

In March, an agent was found drunk at a Netherlands hotel the day before President Obama's arrival in that country. Last year, two officers were removed from the president's security detail following allegations of sexual misconduct. And the year before that, 13 agents and officers were implicated in a prostitution scandal in Colombia.

Obama and his family had already left for Camp David when the Secret Service gave chase to Omar J. Gonzalez, 42, of Copperas Cove, Texas, which is near Ft. Hood. Gonzalez was arrested and charged with unlawful entry to the White House complex. He was taken to George Washington Medical Center after complaining of chest pain during his arrest, according to a late-night statement from the Secret Service.

The last such breach came on the 13th anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks, when an intruder jumped the fence and was apprehended on the North Lawn. In late summer, a child squeezed through the fence and toddled around on the lawn for a few minutes.

An official said the agency had considered closing down Pennsylvania Avenue in order to prevent such lapses, but that it had not done so in order to allow people to take pictures and hold demonstrations.


"We could stop it tomorrow," the agency official said of the perennial problem of fence jumpers. "But that's not reasonable. People should be able to take pictures."

A Secret Service official said the agency will be providing more information in a statement later Saturday. He declined to discuss the incident further.