A Republican member of Congress said on Monday that the man who reportedly scaled the White House and made it to the main door on Sept. 19 actually gained entrance to the mansion. According to the congressman, intruder Omar Gonzalez ran through a number of rooms on the main floor of the White House before being captured.
Speaking to CNN, Representative Jason Chaffetz disclosed that Secret Service agents within the White House were not aware that Gonzalez had jumped the fence because the sound on the front entrance alarm box had been turned off when ushers said the alarm was too noisy. The Washington Post is reporting that because of the muted alarm, the agent stationed just inside the front door was not immediately alerted to the presence of an intruder on the grounds. Agents are trained to immediately lock the front door if an intruder is detected on the grounds. White House staffers inside of the building were only made aware of the breach when Gonzalez came through the front door, which had been left open.
The Washington Post reported the new account of Gonzalez’ White House intrusion on Monday. The new details vastly differ from the previous statement by the Secret Service, which said that Gonzalez was “apprehended after entering the White House North Portico doors.” In the Post’s version of events, Gonzalez subdued a guard stationed just inside the door, went past a staircase which leads to the President’s living area and made it into the East Room, at which time he was tackled by a Secret Service agent. CNN reports that Gonzalez also made it to the Green Room doorway.
According to Chaffetz, the new information was obtained from interviews with whistleblowers during Congress’ investigation into the events. Secret Service spokesman Brian Leary had no comment on the new version of events, citing the ongoing investigation. A spokesperson for the White House also declined to comment.
Gonzalez, 42, has been charged with illegally entering a restricted building or grounds while possessing a dangerous or deadly weapon. Officials report that the decorated veteran of the Iraqi war had a knife on him when he went over the White House fence and into the President’s home. In addition, prosecutors in court last week said that investigators searching Gonzalez’ car discovered two hatchets, a machete and over 800 rounds of ammo inside. Prosecutors also revealed in court that Gonzalez was arrested in July while carrying a sniper rifle and a map showing the location of the White House. In addition, records show that he was detained but not arrested on Aug. 25 after he walked the White House south fence carrying a hatchet in his waistband.
A hearing by the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee is scheduled for Tuesday. Julia Pierson, director of the Secret Service, is scheduled for questioning during the hearing. At her request, she will be questioned separately in a classified hearing in order to prevent the release of critical security information that, if widely known, could jeopardize the President and his family. President Obama was not on the premises when Gonzalez entered the White House, having left just minutes earlier. Gonzalez was deemed to be dangerous to the President during his initial court hearing and is being held without bail until Oct. 1.
By Jennifer Pfalz