White House Intruder Omar Gonzalez Made It Way Further Inside Than We Thought
More details are trickling out about the White House intruder escapade on Sept. 19, and it looks like the trespasser got farther along than we thought. The White House intruder, Omar Gonzalez, ran to the East Room, overpowering a Secret Service agent before being tackled and restrained, according to Congressman Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah). This is more than the Secret Service has publicly revealed about the incident.
The Secret Service initially reported that Gonzalez, who was armed with a knife at the time, jumped the White House fence and entered the mansion, where he was restrained just inside the doors of the North Portico. However, testimonies from sources close to the incident reveal a different story. Chaffetz, who chairs the subcommittee on national security, claims the trespasser made it to the East Room, and was steps from the Green Room before he was apprehended. The East Room is the largest room of the White House, used for receptions and events such as press conferences.
According to The Washington Post, which first broke this story, the alarm box on the White House lawn, used to warn agents of a trespasser, was muted at the time of the incident. An anonymous Secret Service agent told the newspaper the alarm was most likely turned off at the request of the usher's office. Because there was no alarm, the agent at the White House entrance didn't know to lock the doors — the common protocol for an intruder case.
According to the sources close to the incident, Gonzalez also overpowered a female guard once he got inside the White House. He took off, dashing through the massive East Room before being tackled by an agent.
The reveal that Secret Service agents failed to stop Gonzalez sooner is a major blow to the agency, which is already under scrutiny for its security failures. "I'm worried that over the last several years, security has gotten worse — not better," Chaffetz told The Associated Press. The Congressman added to CNN on Monday night that President Obama is "not as safe" as he should be.
The new information also comes at a perfect time for Secret Service Director Julia Pierson, who's slated to appear before the national security subcommittee on Tuesday for questioning about the intrusion. Pierson has declined to publicly comment this week on the details of the incident.When the Secret Service commented on the White House fence-jumper on Sept. 20, the agency said Gonzalez was "physically apprehended after entering the White House North Portico doors." The agency added:
Every day the Secret Service is challenged to ensure security at the White House complex while still allowing public accessibility to a national historical site. The challenge of securing the White House complex from security threats is ever present. Although last night the officers showed tremendous restraint and discipline in dealing with this subject, the location of Gonzalez’s arrest is not acceptable.
Images: Getty Images (2)