Secret Service Director Julia Pierson testified Tuesday that a fence-jumper was able to enter the White House earlier this month through the front door because that door was not connected to a system that allowed it to be locked remotely.
Pierson admitted to this security shortfall in questioning before the House Oversight Committee, which took place in the wake of several press reports about other security failures, including a 2011 shooting at the White House that the Secret Service dismissed as a backfiring car.
Secret Service Director Julia Pierson told Congress Tuesday that the front door to the White House could not be remotely locked until recently, after an intruder burst through the door and entered the premises. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)
"Is there a crash button, and had it been pushed, would it have locked the front door, what's marked as the entrance hall?" asked Committee Chairman Darrell Issa (R-Calif.).
"The front door at the time did not have an automatic locking mechanism," Pierson replied.
Issa indicated his shock and surprise at that answer given that Omar Gonzalez was able to so easily penetrate the White House despite all the money Congress has given to the Secret Service over the last few years, and the existence of an automated system at the White House.
"We have an automated system that can lock down the White House," he said. "Eight-hundred million dollars a year, millions of dollars more during your tenure each year than the president's request, and that door was unlocked with no one standing at it when Mr. Gonzalez came through it."
"The door was unlocked at the time of Mr. Gonzalez's entry, that's correct," Pierson.
Pierson's testimony came hours after it was revealed that an alarm system that could be used to alert guards of an intruder had been muted.
Pierson said the front door Gonzalez entered consisted of an outer storm door and an inner door that is more ornate. The outer door was not locked, and the internal door was "in the process of being hand locked."
Pierson said Gonzalez was met by a security officer at that door, but was able to get by her. The Washington Post reported Tuesday that this was an off-duty officer, but Pierson did not get into that detail at the hearing.
Issa asked Pierson whether the front door is now able to be locked automatically from a remote location. "It has seen been installed and is effective today," she said.
"We learn from our mistakes," Issa said.