A recent security breach at the White House was far more serious than previously known.
Omar Gonzalez, the man accused of scaling the fence at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue earlier this month, made it much deeper into the building than had been initially reported, overpowering a Secret Service officer at the front door and barreling through the 80-foot-long East Room, where the president will often host receptions or deliver addresses.
Gonzalez reportedly eventually reached the door of the Green Room, a parlor containing antique furniture and art. There, a counter-assault agent tackled Gonzalez , who was allegedly carrying a knife. The Secret Service had initially claimed that Gonzalez was halted at the main White House entrance.
The latest details were first reported Monday by the The Washington Post, citing three people familiar with the incident. A U.S. official confirmed the report to NBC News.
According to a Secret Service official, who spoke to The Post on the condition of anonymity, an alarm box near the front entrance of the White House designed to alert guards to an intruder had been muted at what officers believe was a request of the usher’s office.
Republican Rep. Jason Chaffetz, chairman of a House Oversight subcommittee on Homeland Security, said two people inside the agency told him the boxes were silenced because the usher staff found them to be noisy. The Secret Service official who spoke with The Post said the complaint was made out of concern that the boxes were frequently malfunctioning.
The first family was not home at the time of the incident. But White House spokesman Josh Earnest has expressed President Obama’s concern.
Secret Service officials had said earlier that Gonzalez was detained quickly at the main entrance. But the latest details, paired with a new report over the weekend about a 2011 shooting incident at the White House, are raising eyebrows over the level of security surrounding the Obamas.
Secret Service Director Julia Pierson on Tuesday called Sept. 19 failure of Secret Service security at the White House “not acceptable” at a House Oversight Committee hearing. She promised to launch a full investigation into the incident and a comprehensive review of the agency’s policies and procedures.
Last week, Gonzalez was charged with unlawfully entering a restricted area while carrying a deadly or dangerous weapon. Secret Service Director Julia Pierson will face tough questioning about the intrusion on Tuesday before the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee.
Speaking to NBC News Monday, Democratic Rep. Elijah Cummings called the break-in a “transformational moment” and said he would press Pierson about it in the hearing Tuesday.
“[It’s} a ‘come to Jesus’ moment,” said Cummings. “Clearly Secret Service has not lived up to [its] reputation.”