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Monday, September 22, 2014, 09:17

White House security reviewed

By Agencies in Washington
White House security reviewed
A US Secret Service officer guards an entrance to the White House complex during an evacuation minutes after President Barack Obama left for Camp David on Friday. (Evan Vucci / Associated Press)
The US Secret Service is coming under renewed scrutiny after a man scaled the White House fence and made it all the way through the front door before he was apprehended.

US President Barack Obama and his daughters had just left the White House on Friday evening when the intruder climbed the north fence, darted across the lawn and into the residence, where agents nabbed him.

The security breach triggered a rare evacuation of much of the White House. Secret Service officers drew their guns as they rushed staffers and journalists out a side door.

For the Secret Service, the incident was a devastating episode that prompted fresh questions about the agency and its ability to protect the president.

Jason Chaffetz, chairman of the US House Oversight and Government Reform subcommittee on national security, called it "totally unacceptable", and said the incident was just one of a string of security failings.

"Unfortunately, they are failing to do their job," Chaffetz said. "These are good men and women, but the Secret Service leadership has a lot of questions to answer."

On Saturday morning, Secret Service agents could be seen walking shoulder to shoulder across the North Lawn, apparently combing the turf for anything the intruder may have dropped during his sprint the night before. The Secret Service said only that the activity was related to the previous night's incident.

The intruder, in jeans and a dark shirt, appeared to be unarmed when he scaled the fence shortly after 7 pm on Friday, ignoring commands from officers to halt, Secret Service spokesman Ed Donovan said. The intruder was tackled just inside the doors of the North Portico - the grand, columned entrance that looks out over Pennsylvania Avenue. A search of the man turned up no weapons.

The Secret Service identified the man as Omar J. Gonzalez, 42, of Copperas Cove, Texas. He was charged with unlawful entry into the White House complex and taken to a nearby hospital complaining of chest pain. Attempts to reach Gonzalez or his relatives by phone were unsuccessful.

AP - Xinhua

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