WASHINGTON: The US Secret Service is reviewing its security measures after a man claiming to be an Iraq war veteran jumped over a White House fence and entered the presidential mansion with a knife.
The White House — the president’s workplace and home — is generally regarded as one of the most protected places on the planet.
The lapse was the second security incident in as many days after a man was arrested Saturday for trying to enter the complex with his car minutes after attempting to walk into the White House.
Secret Service spokesman Brian Leary told Agence France-Presse that Kevin Carr of Shamong, New Jersey, had been charged with trespassing.
Officials said that the fence jumper, identified as 42-year-old Omar Gonzalez, had entered the front doors of the White House unimpeded late Friday after sprinting across the North Lawn.
He ignored shouts from Secret Service agents after a trained attack dog failed to rush toward him.
President Barack Obama and his family had left the White House for the Camp David presidential retreat just minutes before. Officials and journalists were rushed out of the building during the disturbance.
Gonzalez, of Copperas Cove, Texas, was arrested just after entering the building. Agents found a Spyderco VG-10 black folding knife with a 3.5-inch (8.90-centimeter) serrated blade in his right front pants pocket, according to an affidavit.
The Secret Service had initially said Gonzalez was unarmed.
During an initial appearance in US District Court in Washington on Saturday, he was charged with unlawful entry while in possession of a deadly or dangerous weapon. He faces up to 10 years behind bars.
After his arrest, Gonzalez told a Security Service agent that “he was concerned that the atmosphere was collapsing and needed to get the information to the president of the United States so that he could get the word out to the people,” according to the affidavit.
The document also said that Gonzalez claimed he had served three tours of duty in Iraq.
“Although last night the officers showed tremendous restraint and discipline in dealing with this subject, the location of Gonzalez’s arrest is not acceptable,” the Secret Service said.
An agency within the Department of Homeland Security, the Secret Service is tasked with protecting America’s highest elected officials and visiting foreign officials, and securing events of national significance.
But the service in charge of security for America’s commander in chief has also been dogged with scandals and mishaps in recent years.
The investigation was ordered by Secret Service Director Julia Pierson, whose office said that the review’s findings would be submitted to Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson.
The Secret Service said the review included a physical assessment of the site and personnel interviews, and would encompass “all operational policies and security procedures during this process.”
In the interim, Pierson has ordered increased patrols and surveillance around the fence line of the White House complex.
Officials downplayed Carr’s breach compared to the fence-jumper the day before.
“This is an everyday occurrence,” said Ed Donovan, another Secret Service spokesman, adding that at no point did Carr attempt to enter the White House grounds.
“It’s being overblown,” he said, as US media quickly ramped up coverage of the incident.
The attention also comes after several embarrassing incidents for the agency.
In March, three agents were sent home from Amsterdam after a night of drinking, with one found passed out in a hotel hallway.
And in 2012, a dozen agents and officers drank heavily and brought prostitutes to their hotel in the Colombian Caribbean resort of Cartagena before the president’s arrival for an economy summit.