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article imageWhite House intruder review reveals string of blunders

By AFP     Nov 14, 2014 in World

An internal review of the security lapses that allowed an intruder to scale a fence and enter the White House has revealed a string of Secret Service blunders, reports said.

The New York Times cited a Department of Homeland Security review which said "performance, organizational and technical" failures had allowed Iraq war veteran Omar Gonzalez to evade security and make his way into the building in September.

The review said 42-year-old Gonzalez, who was carrying a knife during the incident, could have been stopped by a Secret Service officer who was supposed to be stationed on the North Lawn with an attack dog.

However, at the time Gonzalez scaled the fence and bolted across the lawn, the officer in question was sitting in his van making a personal call on his cellphone.

The review also found that radio communications between the officers did not work properly leaving some officers unsure of what was going on, or even unaware an alarm had been sounded.

The intrusion was the most serious incident in a string of security lapses involving President Barack Obama, which ultimately led to the resignation of Secret Service director Julia Pierson in October.

A US Secret Service Uniformed Division officer and his K-9 dog patrol the fence line of the White Ho...
A US Secret Service Uniformed Division officer and his K-9 dog patrol the fence line of the White House in Washington, DC, October 23, 2014
Jim Watson, AFP/File

Obama and his family had left the White House shortly before the intrusion took place.

The review found authorities had also failed to properly investigate Gonzalez after he had come to the attention of law enforcement months earlier, The Times reported.

Gonzalez was arrested on gun charges in Virginia in July before being stopped again outside the White House a month later while carrying a hatchet. He was not arrested on that occasion.

The review revealed that Gonzalez was spotted by officers patrolling the street outside the White House climbing over a section of fencing missing an ornamental spike.

They ordered him to stop and drew their firearms but elected not to shoot because they did not believe he was armed. Gonzalez ignored their commands and kept on going.

Another officer stationed near the outer front door of the White House also decided not to use lethal force when confronted by Gonzalez because he did not believe he was armed. Again his commands to stop were ignored.

The officer did not follow Gonzalez into the building because he believed the door was locked and that the intruder was cornered, the review said.

But the door was open, allowing Gonzalez to burst through knocking over a female agent there.

Gonzalez entered the East Room of the White House before exiting and charging down a hallway. He was eventually apprehended by two agents who had just finished their shifts.

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