U.S. news outlets have revealed another major security breach involving the agency responsible for protecting President Barack Obama and his family.
The reports say an armed guard for a private security firm got on an elevator with Obama during his visit to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in the southeastern city of Atlanta last month to discuss the Ebola crisis. The guard began taking pictures of Obama with his cellphone camera, ignoring demands by the Secret Service that he stop.
The Secret Service did not know the guard was carrying a gun until he was fired by his supervisor, and learned later that he had three prior convictions for assault and battery.
The Atlanta incident was revealed hours after Secret Service chief Julia Pierson testified before a congressional committee about an Army veteran who climbed the White House fence and ran into the building before he was apprehended. That incident occurred September 19, just three days after the Atlanta one.
Secret Service chief Julia Pierson told the U.S. House Oversight Committee that Omar Gonzalez, 42, barreled past one agent, and was only caught after running into the ceremonial rooms on the first floor of the White House.
The Secret Service at first said Gonzalez was arrested just inside an unlocked White House door, and that he was unarmed at the time. The president and his daughters had left the residence shortly before the incident — which happened just three days after the security breach at the CDC.
“It’s clear that our security plan was not properly executed. This is unacceptable and I take full responsibility and I will make sure that it does not happen again,” Pierson explained.
Pierson’s admission failed to satisfy committee chairman Darrell Issa, who said a series of lapses in recent years raised questions about the Secret Service’s leadership.
“The Secret Service must show us how there is a clear path back to public trust,” said Issa.
In one 2011 incident, gunfire hit the White House, but damage from the bullets was only discovered days later.
In other Secret Service wrongdoing, agents were involved in a prostitution scandal on a presidential trip to Colombia in 2012, and a night of drinking in March that led to three agents being sent home from a presidential trip to Amsterdam.
Gonzalez served with the U.S. Army during the nine-year war in Iraq. He is now being held in Washington and facing a charge of entering a restricted building while carrying a weapon. If convicted, he faces up to 10 years in prison.