Prosecutor: 800 rounds found in White House intruder caseI'm guessing this is a stunt used to further push more gun control agendas.
Prosecutor: 800 rounds found in intruder case
WASHINGTON (AP) — Investigators found more than 800 rounds of ammunition, a machete and two hatchets in the car of the former soldier accused of scaling the White House fence and sprinting inside while carrying a knife, a federal prosecutor said Monday. President Barack Obama was "obviously concerned" about the weekend incident, a spokesman said.
The Secret Service increased security around the famous grounds on Pennsylvania Avenue in the nation's capital, some guards openly holding weapons, others escorting dogs. There was talk of expanding the security zone beyond the current area as a major investigation began into the question of how the man managed to get to the building without being stopped.
Forty-two-year-old Omar J. Gonzalez of Copperas Cove, Texas, faces charges of entering a restricted building or grounds while carrying a deadly or dangerous weapon. He had been arrested earlier in the summer in Virginia with a carful of weapons, authorities said, and a federal prosecutor said Monday in court that Gonzalez had had a map then with the White House circled.
Authorities ran into Gonzalez again, less than a month ago on Aug. 25, when he was stopped while walking along the south fence of the White House, his car parked nearby. He had a hatchet in a rear waistband but no firearms, a federal prosecutor said at Monday's hearing. Gonzalez gave permission to search his car and was not arrested.
Friday evening, Obama and his family had left the White House for Camp David when the incident occurred. Gonzalez was seized just inside the building's front door. No guns were found in his car.
In court, Gonzalez, with a gray beard, a shaved head and dressed in a standard prison orange jumpsuit, listened impassively as the prosecutor spoke. He could face up to 10 years in prison if convicted of illegally entering a restricted area with a dangerous weapon.
The Army said he served from 1997 until his discharge in 2003, and again from 2005 to December 2012, when he retired due to disability.
Obama, asked about the incident at the White House, said, "The Secret Service does a great job, and I'm grateful for the sacrifices that they make on my behalf -- and my family's behalf."
But spokesman Josh Earnest said the president was "obviously concerned" about what had happened.
At the federal court hearing, Assistant U.S. Attorney David Mudd said Gonzalez already was under indictment in southwestern Virginia, accused of having a sawed-off shotgun and trying to elude police this summer.
In that case, state troopers and agents from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives found a cache of weapons that included two semi-automatic military style rifles, including one with a bipod and flashlight and one with a bipod and scope, three .45-caliber handguns and several loaded ammunition magazines, Wythe County Deputy Commonwealth Attorney David Saliba said in a telephone interview. Saliba said he also had a hatchet and camping equipment.
The weapons and ammunition were seized in that July 19 incident, but Gonzalez was released on bail.
Earnest said the Secret Service investigation will include a review of protective efforts both inside the White House grounds and outside the fence line along Pennsylvania Avenue, including staffing and threat assessment policies and procedures.
The House Oversight and Government Reform Committee announced it would hold a hearing next week.
Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson said he would ultimately review the findings of the investigation ordered by Secret Service Director Julia Pierson. Johnson said the public should not rush to judgment about the security breach and urged against second-guessing security officers whom he said "had only seconds to act."
The Secret Service didn't open fire on Gonzalez or send attack dogs after him.
Officers who spotted Gonzalez scale the fence quickly assessed that he didn't have any weapons in his hands and wasn't wearing clothing that could conceal substantial quantities of explosives, a primary reason agents did not fire their weapons, according to a U.S. official briefed on the investigation.
Another consideration was whether bystanders behind the fence could have been hit by errant gunfire, said the official, who was not authorized to discuss the investigation by name and spoke only on condition of anonymity.
The Secret Service has long tried to balance public access to the "People's House" and security of the presidential residence.
The two-block stretch of Pennsylvania Avenue in front of the White House's north gates has been closed to vehicle traffic since May 1995, when President Bill Clinton ordered the immediate closure of the road in an effort to prevent a potential car- or truck-bomb attack.
On any given day, numerous uniformed officers can be seen patrolling parts of the sprawling lawns on either side of the White House, and others are stationed along the fence line on Pennsylvania Avenue. Many more were in view on Monday.
But the pedestrian-only zone hasn't entirely prevented security breaches along the fence.
Last September a man was arrested and accused of throwing firecrackers over the fence on the north lawn, near the area where Gonzalez is accused of climbing over the barrier.
A few weeks later a Connecticut woman set off a police chase through downtown Washington after ramming a security checkpoint near the White House. Miriam Carey, 34, was shot and killed by police near the Capitol.
In May, a man was arrested after he followed a motorcade carrying President Obama's daughters through the gates. A charge of unlawful entry was later dismissed.
On a lighter note, in August a toddler managed to slip through the slats in the metal fence. The Secret Service joked that they would wait until the boy learned to talk before questioning him.
Less than 24 hours after Gonzalez's arrest, a second man was taken into custody after he drove up to a White House gate and refused to leave, the Secret Service said.
The Secret Service identified the man as Kevin Carr, 19, of Shamong, New Jersey. Earlier, Carr had been turned away at a different entrance, which he had approached on foot, claiming he communicated with the president through telepathy and had an appointment, a court document said.
The incidents have only intensified the scrutiny of the Secret Service, which is struggling to rehabilitate its image following a series of allegations of misconduct by agents in recent years, including agents on Obama's protective detail.
Something is terribly wrong with the Secret Service
By Byron York | September 22, 2014 | 6:05 pm
President Obama is supporting the Secret Service in the wake of a deeply troubling incident in which a disturbed man jumped the White House fence, sprinted across the North Lawn, and actually entered the White House Friday evening.
The man, 42 year-old Omar Gonzalez, had a folding knife in his pocket and had left 800 rounds of ammunition in his car not far from the White House. Gonzalez had also drawn the attention of authorities at least twice a few weeks ago — once in Virginia, when he was found with a sniper rifle, a sawed-off shotgun, and a map with the White House circled on it, and a second time when he walked near the White House fence with a hatchet in his waistband.
On Friday, Gonzalez was briefly in the White House itself.
Nevertheless, the president had nothing but praise for the agency responsible for his security. "The Secret Service does a great job," Obama said during an Oval Office meeting Monday. "I'm grateful for all the sacrifices they make on my behalf and on my family's behalf."
White House spokesman Josh Earnest added that the president has "complete confidence" in the Secret Service.
Despite all that positive talk, it appears something is very, very wrong with the Secret Service.
After the incident, the organization began to leak proposals for some major security changes around the White House. Some reports suggested the Secret Service would clear the area around the current White House fence and erect another barrier farther out. That would presumably make it impossible for a fence jumper make a long run to the White House door without being caught.
But the key question arising from Friday's incident is not whether the White House perimeter should be expanded, but why Secret Service agents did not act more quickly when Gonzalez jumped the fence and began running toward the mansion. Why was no agent able to catch him outside? Why did agents not release the dogs that are trained to stop intruders? And why did agents not lock the White House door once the perimeter had been breached?
Those were human failures, not design shortcomings. And to some members of Congress, those human failures have been going on for quite a while at the Secret Service.
Calling the breach "totally unacceptable" and expressing amazement that the White House door was open, Republican Rep. Jason Chaffetz of Utah, a member of the House Homeland Security Committee, hinted there is more trouble than the public knows about. "This is not the first time Secret Service has shown too much vulnerability," Chaffetz tweeted after the incident. "There are other unreported incidents. I will continue to push."
"Been investigating the Secret Service for some time," Chaffetz continued. "Frustrating. Good men and women but HUGE question marks for their leadership." Lawmakers could hold a hearing on the matter soon.
House Intelligence Committee chairman Mike Rogers, a former FBI agent, also believes the Secret Service's problems go deeper than a new fence. In an interview Sunday, Rogers suggested that a guard's attention can wane when he is stationed in one place for long periods of time — a lapse that cannot be tolerated when the president's security is involved.
"It happens frequently in other places where there are static security forces," Rogers told CBS. "And it's just a matter of the Secret Service upping their game to make sure that they can maintain that every detail matters. A door locked, a quick reaction when somebody hits the fence and over the gate. I think they're going to have to reinstate some of these ongoing checks ... self-audits on their security."
Secret Service director Julia Pierson, appointed last year by President Obama to clean up the agency after the 2012 Colombia prostitution scandal, is starting an investigation. Pierson's boss, Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson, is trying to calm things down while asking for time to look into the incident.
"I encourage all of us to not rush to judgment about the event and not second-guess the judgment of security officers who had only seconds to act, until all the facts are in," Johnson said in a statement Monday.
But members of Congress are right to express deep concern. The Secret Service knew about Omar Gonzalez, who might as well have carried a sign saying "I AM A THREAT TO THE PRESIDENT." And yet he made it through the White House door.
It's not enough for the president and his aides to express confidence. They need to find out what is wrong with the Secret Service and fix it, fast.