WASHINGTON -- Secret Service agents briefly forced reporters attending the White House press briefing outside of the building when a bomb threat was phoned in to Washington city police. President Barack Obama remained nearby, staying inside the White House during the threat.
After the building was searched, the reporters were allowed to return inside. The evacuation was conducted to protect the safety of all of us,” White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest said after the press briefing resumed. Agents used bomb-sniffing dogs and other resources already on the White House grounds to inspect the area, Earnest said.
Where the president was during the evacuation of the press room -- which is only feet from the Oval Office -- was not immediately available. “I'm not sure exactly what he was doing. He was here in the White House,” Earnest said. He said the Secret Service was responsible for decision making during the evacuation. “This was a decision made by Secret Service based on information they had received,” Earnest said.
The Secret Service has been the subject of intense scrutiny about their ability to protect the White House in recent months. After a man was able to jump the White House fence and run into the building, critics argued the agency was failing its responsibilities. The Secret Service is planning to add spikes to the fence in response.
It was the second evacuation on Tuesday because of a phoned-in bomb threat in Washington. Earlier in the day, a Senate office building was evacuated when Capitol Police received a phone bomb threat. That evacuation disrupted a Senate hearing examining the Transportation Security Administration, the agency responsible for overseeing security at the nation’s airports.
Some of the reporters, upon being allowed to return to the briefing room, complained that during the security sweep to check the room for bombs, cameras that are set up inside the room were covered by government officials. There was also complaints from reporters that they had been moved from outside the White House into a nearby office building.