As the competence of the Secret Service is questioned, details emerged of another lapse in the security around President Obama: Earlier this month Secret Service agents allowed an armed ex-convict and security contractor in an elevator with Obama during a trip to Atlanta, the Washington Post reported. The security contractor had three prior convictions for assault and battery and was carrying a gun. Allowing him near the president violated the standards of Secret Service protocol -- to say the least.
The president was not notified of the breach in security, and Secret Service Director Julia Pierson reportedly reviewed the situation internally. She did not report the incident to the investigative unit that handles protocol and standards violations, the Post said.
Sources told the Post the ex-con drew attention when he refused to comply with Secret Service agents' demand he stop using his phone to tape the president inside the elevator. Obama’s security detail noted the man was behaving in a strange manner, but did not learn about his criminal history until they questioned him and searched a national crime database. Agents did not realize the man was armed until he handed over his gun.
“Words aren’t strong enough for the outrage I feel for the safety of the president and his family,” Rep. Jason Chaffetz told the Post. “His life was in danger. This country would be a different world today if he had pulled out his gun.”
The elevator incident is just the latest in a series of lapses by the Secret Service. Director Pierson faced harsh questioning from both Democrats and Republicans during a House Oversight Committee hearing Tuesday.
“I wish to God you protected the White House like you’re protecting your reputation today,” Rep. Stephen Lynch, D-Mass., said.
The hearing was prompted by an incident Sept. 19 (three days after the Atlanta elevator breach) when Army veteran Omar Gonzalez broke into the White House, highlighting a number of security holes. Gonzalez’s intrusion marks the sixth time the White House fence was breached this year.
"It will never happen again," Pierson vowed to Congress.