WASHINGTON -- Members of Congress insisted yesterday that the Secret Service improve its procedures after an Army veteran, apparently suffering from mental problems, jumped a fence and managed to make it into the White House.
Rep. Mike Rogers (R-Mich.), chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, said the incident suggested the protective service might be plagued by an "atrophy of concern." Rogers said on CBS' "Face the Nation": "I think what you have seen is that they're not doing their audits, their checks, test runs to make sure that people are up to the right standard."
Others such as Rep. Peter King (R-Seaford) were harsher, citing ongoing concerns about terrorist attacks. "I have great respect for the Secret Service, but this is absolutely inexcusable," said King, a member of the House Homeland Security Committee, on "Fox News Sunday." The incident "demands a full investigation," he said.
The intruder, identified by authorities as Omar J. Gonzalez, 42, of Copperas Cove, Texas, near Fort Hood, was later found to be carrying a 3 1/2-inch folding knife in his right front pants pocket. He is in custody, undergoing a mental evaluation. He was expected to appear in federal court today to face charges of unlawfully entering a restricted building or grounds while carrying a deadly or dangerous weapon.
Gonzalez is an Army veteran diagnosed with combat trauma and retired with a disability in 2012.
Secret Service officials said Gonzalez climbed a fence on the north side of the White House about 7:20 p.m. Friday and sprinted roughly 100 yards and into the building before he was captured by officers.
The first family was not on the grounds at the time.
The Secret Service said its Office of Professional Responsibility was carrying out the review.
Less than 24 hours after Gonzalez's arrest, a second man was apprehended after he drove up to a White House gate and refused to leave, Secret Service spokesman Ed Donovan said, prompting bomb technicians to search the vehicle. Yesterday, Secret Service spokesman Brian Leary identified that driver as Kevin Carr, 19, of Shamong, N.J.
There were no indications the two incidents were connected. But they only intensified the scrutiny of the Secret Service, which faced allegations of misconduct by agents in recent years, including agents on Obama's detail.
The Secret Service is considering ways to move people farther from the White House, such as keeping both local residents and tourists off the sidewalks around the fence and creating several yards of additional barrier. Another is to have tourists and visitors screened and checked as far as a block away.
The New York Times first reported yesterday that the service was considering screening visitors' bags and ID farther away from the White House.
With AP and
The Washington Post