In a stunning announcement, the director of the US Secret Service told a congressional panel the front door to the White House would in the future lock automatically during a security breach. Her comments led to multiple questions from lawmakers about why the door had not already locked in that manner.
Secret Service Director Julia Pierson testified before the House Oversight Committee on Tuesday in response to the mid-September security breach in which Omar Gonzalez, a knife-wielding intruder, jumped over a fence outside the White House and made it deep inside the building.
One of the immediate changes to security procedure, Pierson said, was the change to automatic locks at the White House’s north door. She told the committee that a Secret Service officer was attempting to lock the door of the White House manually when Gonzalez barged through and knocked over the officer.
Gonzalez was eventually able to venture extensively inside the White House, with help from the fact he was able to make it through two unlocked doors. He was eventually tackled near the Green Room after running through most of the East Room, taking a path that led him past a staircase that led to the president’s bedroom. Obama was not in the White House, however, at the time.
Pierson faced a grilling in front of members of Congress, who expressed concern about the safety of the president and the First Family in light of a number of recent mishaps by the agency. They include a 2011 incident in which it took several days for the Secret Service to discover a gunman had shot at the White House.
Rep. Darrell Issa (R-California), the chair of the committee, chided Pierson in his opening remarks, snarkily asking her “how much would it cost” to lock the front door of the White House.