Republican congressman Jason Chaffetz of Utah tore into the Secret Service on Friday after an intruder trespassed at the White House.
The intruder allegedly roamed around White House grounds for 17 minutes last week, Chaffetz said in an interview on CNN.
“It was complete and utter total failures,” Chaffetz said.”The White House is probably the most targeted place on the face of the planet. We spend billions of dollars to secure it.”
The Congressmen said he had spoken to Secretary of Homeland Security John Kelly about the incident, and that Kelly had told him, “This person was there on the ground for 17 minutes, went undetected, was able to get up next to the White House, hide behind a pillar, look through a window, rattle the door handle. It’s just beyond comprehension, especially because it’s not the first time this has happened.”
The president was inside the White House at the time.
Chaffetz confessed to Blitzer that “this one scares me,” citing the length of time the man was on White House grounds and the proximity to the president.
When talking about the Secret Service, Chaffetz said: “I don’t know what in the world they’re doing, but it is a total and complete embarrassment.”
He called the Secret Service, “better than this” and asked Blitzer “how can they have such repeated constant failures on this?”
Chaffetz clarified there are “supposed to be alarms” for an intruder on White House grounds, but the first “excuse” given for the failure was, “they may have thought it was an animal, maybe a raccoon or a squirrel..Maybe they did send somebody out there. But, again, they went undetected. And so I don’t think it was — it was dealt with properly from top to bottom. I really don’t.”
- Thomson Reuters
The Secret Service issued a statement on Friday confirming they were investigating the incident.
“The men and women of the Secret Service are extremely disappointed and angry in how the events of March 10 transpired,” the statement read.
The statement confirmed “immediate steps have been taken to mitigate lapses in security protocols,” which included “additional posts, technology enhancements, and response protocols.”
In 2014 an intruder carrying a knife was able to run across the North Lawn of the White House and succeeded in getting inside the building and to the East Wing before Secret Service were able to catch him.
The New York Times reported in 2014 on a series of White House breaches, “including a breach that occurred when a couple crashed a state dinner in 2009, a 2011 incident when bullets struck the White House, scandals involving drinking and prostitution on overseas trips in 2012 and 2013, and 16 separate cases of people scaling the White House fence in the last five years.”