Secret Service head takes onus for WH breach

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Secret Service head takes onus for WH breach
An unidentified electronic device, which could be a small drone, landed on the grounds of the White House overnight. Security teams could be seen on the north lawn shining flashlights. "There is a device that has been recovered by the Secret Service on the grounds of the White House." Josh Earnest told reporters traveling with President Obama in India on Monday that the Secret Service is investigating, but there was no immediate danger from the incident.
drone found on grounds of White House has been recovered by Secret Service, confirms @PressSec but does not appear to pose a threat, he says
JUST IN: White House on lockdown, after Secret Service found a "device" on the grounds. President and First Lady are both away in India.
The Secret Service says an agent heard and saw a small drone flying low to the ground around 3 a.m. before crashing on the White House grounds.
WASHINGTON, DC - OCTOBER 23: Members of the US Secret Service are stationed on the front lawn of White House October 23, 2014 in Washington, DC. Last evening Dominic Adesanya, 23, of Bel Air, Maryland jumped over the two layers of security fence and onto the north lawn of the White House before he was subdued as he fought two police dogs. (Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images)
A US Secret Service agent is bundled up against the snow as anti-abortion activists gather for a prayer outside the White House in Washington,DC on January 21, 2015. AFP PHOTO/NICHOLAS KAMM (Photo credit should read NICHOLAS KAMM/AFP/Getty Images)
A US Secret Service Uniformed Division officer stands between the temporary barricade and the fence line of the White House in Washington, DC, October 23, 2014. A suspect who climbed over the White House fence on October 22 was nabbed by Secret Service agents and dogs, a spokesman for the elite agency said. 'At approximately 7:16 pm (1116 GMT), an individual climbed the north fence line of the White House,' the spokesman said. 'The individual was immediately taken into custody on the north lawn of the White House by Secret Service Uniformed Division K-9 teams and Uniformed Division Officers.' The fence climber was identified as 23-year-old Dominic Adesanya from Marlyand, near the US capital, the spokesman said. AFP PHOTO/JIM WATSON (Photo credit should read JIM WATSON/AFP/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - NOVEMBER 19: Joseph Clancy, acting director of the United States Secret Service, is sworn in at the start of a House Judiciary Committee Hearing entitled 'Oversight of the United States Secret Service,' on Capitol Hill, November 19, 2014 in Washington, DC. Clancy, who became acting director of the Secret Service last month, told lawmakers that the agency has 'fallen short' of its goals in the midst of recent security lapses. (Drew Angerer/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - NOVEMBER 19: Joseph Clancy, acting director of the United States Secret Service, takes his seat prior to the start of a House Judiciary Committee Hearing entitled 'Oversight of the United States Secret Service,' on Capitol Hill, November 19, 2014 in Washington, DC. Clancy, who became acting director of the Secret Service last month, told lawmakers that the agency has 'fallen short' of its goals in the midst of recent security lapses. (Drew Angerer/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - NOVEMBER 19: Joseph Clancy, acting director of the United States Secret Service, takes his seat prior to the start of a House Judiciary Committee Hearing entitled 'Oversight of the United States Secret Service,' on Capitol Hill, November 19, 2014 in Washington, DC. Clancy, who became acting director of the Secret Service last month, told lawmakers that the agency has 'fallen short' of its goals in the midst of recent security lapses. (Drew Angerer/Getty Images)
Avast! Secret Service head in hot seat after ... #FoxNews #OmarGonzalez #SecretService http://t.co/dotMJV1Wgf http://t.co/NCqKAzWA7d
WASHINGTON, DC - OCTOBER 01: U.S. Marshals and officers from the Federal Protection Police guard the outside of The United States District Court for the District of Columbia October 1, 2014 in Washington, DC. Accused White House intruder Omar Gonzalez is scheduled to appear in U.S. District Court for a detention and preliminary hearing. On September19, Gonzalez jumped the White House fence and, armed with a knife, unlawfully entered and ran through the Executive Mansion before being eventually being subdued. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON - JULY 31: Uniformed Secret Service agents detain a man who attempted to jump the fence on to the North Lawn of the White House July 31, 2006, in Washington DC. The man was detained without incident. (Photo by Joshua Roberts/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - SEPTEMBER 29: An extra layer of barricade has been set up outside the White House September 29, 2014 in Washington, DC. Omar Gonzalez, the man arrested on Friday after jumping the White House fence, went deeper into the building than what it was previously reported. (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)
US Secret Service officers stand watch as US President Barack Obama returns to the Oval Office at the White House in Washington, DC, October 14, 2014. AFP PHOTO / Jim WATSON (Photo credit should read JIM WATSON/AFP/Getty Images)
A member of the US Secret Service stands guard while President Barack Obama walks Marine One on the South Lawn of the White House October 9, 2014 in Washington, DC. Obama is traveling to California through Saturday. AFP PHOTO/Brendan SMIALOWSKI (Photo credit should read BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - SEPTEMBER 30: Secret Service Director Julia Pierson testifies to the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee on the White House perimeter breach at the Rayburn House Office Building on September 30, 2014 in Washington, DC. Pierson is giving an account of an incident involving a security breach at the White House after a man jumped the fence and was not subdued until after he had entered the mansion, deeper into the building than what it was previously reported. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)
Director of the United States Secret Service Julia Pierson testifies before the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC September 30, 2014. The head of the Secret Service took responsibility Tuesday for security lapses at the White House, saying a recent intrusion by a knife-wielding man was 'unacceptable' and would not occur again. 'This is unacceptable. I take full responsibility and it will never happen again,' Secret Service director Julia Pierson told US lawmakers angered by a series of security failures at the presidential mansion. AFP PHOTO / Jim WATSON (Photo credit should read JIM WATSON/AFP/Getty Images)
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By ALICIA A. CALDWELL and JOSH LEDERMAN
Associated Press

WASHINGTON (AP) -- Facing blistering criticism from Congress, Secret Service Director Julia Pierson acknowledged on Tuesday the agency fell short in executing its plan to protect the White House when a man with a knife entered the mansion and ran through half the ground floor before being subdued.

"It's unacceptable," Pierson told lawmakers, promising a review of how the storied but blemished agency carries out its mission of protecting the president and how it failed to intercept the intruder much earlier.

"I'll make sure that it does not happen again," she said, declaring that she took full responsibility for the failures.

Pierson disclosed said there have been six fence-jumpers this year alone, including one just eight days before Army veteran Omar J. Gonzalez jumped the fence on Sept. 19.

Pierson appeared Tuesday before the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee.

"The fact is the system broke down," declared committee chairman Darrell Issa. "An intruder walked in the front door of the White House, and that is unacceptable."

Not only that, he said, but the intruder penetrated at least five rings of security protecting what is supposed to be one of the world's most secure properties.

"How on earth did it happen?" he asked. "This failure ... has tested the trust of the American people in the Secret Service, a trust we clearly depend on to protect the president."

Members of Congress briefed by the agency apparently weren't told of the full extent of the breach. Details only emerged later.

Rep. Jason Chaffetz, R-Utah, said Monday night that whistleblowers told his committee that the intruder ran through the White House, into the East Room and near the doors to the Green Room before being apprehended. They also reported to lawmakers that accused intruder Omar J. Gonzalez made it past a guard stationed inside the White House, Chaffetz said.

"I'm worried that over the last several years, security has gotten worse - not better," Chaffetz said.

Chaffetz Questions Response to White House Intruder

In the hours after the Sept. 19 fence-jumper incident, Secret Service spokesman Ed Donovan told The Associated Press that Gonzalez had been apprehended just inside the North Portico doors of the White House. The agency also said that night the Army veteran had been unarmed - an assertion that was revealed to be false the next day, when officials acknowledged Gonzalez had a knife with him when he was apprehended.

The Secret Service declined to comment on the latest details to trickle out of the investigation of the embarrassing security breach.

It was not clear late Monday what Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson was told about the extent of the incident.

Senate Judiciary Committee staffers who were briefed about the investigation by the administration a week after the incident were never told how far Gonzalez made it into the building, according to a congressional official who wasn't authorized to discuss the investigation and requested anonymity. The official said the committee later was told that the suspect had, indeed, made it far beyond the front door.

Chaffetz said his committee's request for a briefing from the Secret Service on the incident was denied, a response he called "disappointing and frustrating."

Asked whether he would seek an apology from Pierson, Chaffetz said, "We're going to let things play out (Tuesday)."

Pierson's predecessor, Mark J. Sullivan, apologized to lawmakers in 2012 after details emerged of a night of debauchery involving 13 Secret Service agents and officers in advance of the president's arrival at a summit in Colombia. Sullivan retired about 10 months later.

Details of how far Gonzalez got into the White House were disclosed Monday.

Citing multiple unnamed sources, The Washington Post reported that Gonzalez ran past the guard at the front door, past a staircase leading up to the Obamas' living quarters and into the East Room, which is about halfway across the first floor of the building. Gonzalez was eventually "tackled" by a counter-assault agent, the Post said.

Getting so far into the building would have required Gonzalez to dash through the main entrance hall, turn a corner, then run through the center hallway halfway across the first floor of the building, which spans 168 feet in total, according to the White House Historical Association.

Since the incident, the White House has treaded carefully. Although White House spokesman Josh Earnest acknowledged the president was "obviously concerned" about the intrusion, he expressed confidence in the Secret Service as recently as Monday.

It would be untenable for any president, not just Obama, to pointedly criticize the men and women who put themselves at risk to protect his life and family. That inherent conflict of interest means Congress, not the executive branch, is the most effective oversight authority for the Secret Service, its agents and officers.

"The president and the first lady, like all parents, are concerned about the safety of their children, but the president and first lady also have confidence in the men and women of the Secret Service to do a very important job," Earnest said.

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