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WH expresses confidence in Secret Service as reports note slip-ups

A security perimeter has been installed in front of the White House on Tuesday, Sept. 23, 2014, in Washington, D.C. (Olivier Douliery/Abaca Press/MCT)
A security perimeter has been installed in front of the White House on Tuesday, Sept. 23, 2014, in Washington, D.C. (Olivier Douliery/Abaca Press/MCT) MCT

The White House expressed confidence in the Secret Service Monday, despite a Washington Post story that says it took agents in 2011 four days to realize that shots fired from Constitution Avenue had hit the White House residence -- “a discovery that came about only because a housekeeper noticed broken glass and a chunk of cement on the floor.”

That report came as the service conducts an internal review into how an armed intruder earlier this month jumped a fence and made it into the White House before being tackled. The Post later Monday reported that the man, Omar Gonzalez, “made it much farther into the building than previously known, overpowering one Secret Service officer and running through much of the main floor.”

Before that story emerged, Press Secretary Josh Earnest said Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama -- who were reportedly irate at the agency in 2011 -- had confidence in the Secret Service to protect their family.

The first family has “confidence in the men and women of the Secret Service to do a very important job, which is to protect the first family, to protect the White House, but also to protect the ability of tourists and members of the public to conduct their business or even tour the White House,” Earnest said.

He noted Obama had met with Secret Service Director Julia Pierson to discuss the review and that he expects Obama to review any reforms or recommendations.

“But ultimately, the president does retain confidence in the leadership of the Secret Service and in the men and women of the Secret Service who on a daily basis wake up in the morning prepared to put their life on the line to protect the first family,” Earnest said.

Pierson is expected to appear Tuesday before the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, which is looking into the security lapse.

Michael McCaul, R-Texas, chairman of the Committee on Homeland Security, is also asking the Secret Service to provide more details about the security breach, saying the committee is concerned “about what could be perceived as a lack of communication between state officials and the U.S. Secret Service concerning potential threats to the President.”

He noted Gonzalez was under indictment for a weapons related offense in Virginia stemming from a pursuit on July 19, and had been stopped by the Secret Service August 25, after officers near the White House noticed a hatchet in his waistband.

The Washington Post says Gonzalez ran into the East Room, “an ornate space often used for receptions or presidential addresses” and was tackled by a counter-assault agent. He had reached the doorway to the Green Room, a “parlor overlooking the South Lawn with artwork and antique furniture, according to three people familiar with the incident,” the Post said.

The first family had just left the White House for Camp David when the incident occurred.

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