WASHINGTON (CBSNewYork/AP) — A security breach at the White House earlier this month seems to have been far more severe than the public originally knew, in revelations that U.S. Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) called “really, really troubling.”
As CBS 2’s Dick Brennan reported, sources said Monday that the alleged intruder – an Iraqi war veteran identified as Omar J. Gonzalez – made it farther into the White House than the Secret Service originally publicly acknowledged.READ MORE: Former Gov. Andrew Cuomo Charged With Misdemeanor Forcible Touching
Gonzalez, 42, ran unobstructed for 70 yards across the front lawn of the White House before entering through the North Portico. On the way, he brushed by a Secret Service officer with a drawn gun, sources tell CBS News’ Bill Plante.
Gonzalez then proceeded to run through the entrance hall to the cross hall of the White House, past the staircase that leads up to the first family’s residence. He was confronted by a female Secret Service agent, whom he overpowered, and made it all the way to the East Room, Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah) told CBS News, citing whistleblowers.
Gonzalez was brought down by a door leading to the Green Room, a parlor adjacent to the East Room, which is used for formal events including bill signings, press conferences, receptions and ceremonies, CBS News reported.
“This is just – it’s more than vexing, it’s just – it’s really, really troubling. If the White House isn’t secure, what is? I think that’s what the average New Yorker and the average American would be thinking, and they’ve got a very good point,” Schumer said in a telephone interview with CBS 2 Monday evening.
But also raising questions is what the Secret Service originally reported.
In the hours after the Sept. 19 fence-jumper incident, Secret Service spokesman Ed Donovan told The Associated Press that the suspect had been apprehended just inside the North Portico doors of the White House. The Secret Service also said that night that the suspect had been unarmed — an assertion that was revealed to be false the next day when officials acknowledged that Gonzalez had a knife with him when he was apprehended.
And this is not the first questionable incident.
In November 2011, another suspect – Oscar Ortego Hernandez – fired multiple rounds at the White House.
The Washington Post reported Sunday that a Secret Service supervisor thought it was backfiring construction equipment and ignored eyewitness accounts of a shooting.
It was not until broken glass and plaster were found four days later that it was determined that seven bullets had hit the White House – in and around the First Family’s living quarters.READ MORE: Student, 14, Arrested With Loaded Handgun At Brooklyn High School
One of President Barack Obama’s daughter, Sasha, was home at the time. So was Michelle Obama’s mother, Marian Shields Robinson.
Fortunately, the bulletproof glass held in the incident.
“Clearly, had the grandmother and the daughter been on the balcony, it would have been a very dangerous situation,” said former Secret Service director Ralph Basham.
President Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama were said to be furious at the breach.
“One Secret Service agent that I talked to said, ‘We just keep getting lucky,’” Chaffetz said. “Well, we can’t rely on luck. We have great men and women. But leadership and protocol – I’ve got serious questions about that.”
Critics said they worry about the safety of the first family
“They are not safe — absolutely not,” said Ron Kessler, author of the book “The First Family Detail.”
“The agents I talk to say it’s a miracle there has not been an assassination so far.”
And the very day after the Gonzalez incident, another man – Kevin Carr, 19, of Shamong, New Jersey – was accused by the Secret Service of trying to enter a barricaded entryway to the White House property. Carr did not hit the barricades, and was arrested and charged with unlawful entry.
The president and First Lady were not in the White House in any of the incidents. The House committee that oversees the Secret Service will question director Julia Pearson on Tuesday about the security lapses.
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