WASHINGTON, D.C. (CNN) — Secret Service Director Julia Pierson on Tuesday defended her agency’s response to the November 11, 2011, gunshots that hit the White House.
She said records show the Secret Service “did respond properly” by sweeping the area to see whether anyone was injured and whether there were obvious signs of damage, she told the House Oversight Committee, responding to questions by committee chairman Rep. Darrell Issa.
Damage to the White House was discovered not in that initial sweep, but later.
The “unprecedented and unacceptable” breach poses difficult questions about the use of lethal force and the tolerance for additional fortifications around the executive mansion, former Secret Service Director Ralph Basham told the House Oversight Committee.
There are no easy answers, and long-term consequences of any changes must be thought through, he said.
Besides the September 19th breach, incidents that have tested Americans’ trust in the Secret Service include a reality TV subject crashing a state dinner, a 2012 prostitution scandal, an agent falling asleep outside a room in the Netherlands and gunshots fired at the White House in November 2011 — an incident in which damage wasn’t properly reported, House Oversight Committee Chairman Darrell Issa said during a hearing Tuesday.
Issa said these security failures and other ‘misbehaviors’ have ‘tested the trust of the American people’ and blemished the Secret Service’s record.
Pierson said the incident in which the man scaled the fence and entered the White House was “unacceptable” and told the congressional committee she takes “full responsibility.”
“It’s clear that our security plan was not properly executed executed,” she said.
Saying she couldn’t give complete responses because presidential protection is highly sensitive or classified, Pierson said the incident remains under investigation and she doesn’t “want to get ahead of the investigation.”
Issa questioned how Omar Gonazalez, a 42-year-old, knife-wielding Iraq war veteran, penetrated “five rings of security” in jumping the White House fence and making it into the East Room of the White House.
Pierson told the committee that people jump the White House fence a few times a year.
“The Secret Service has apprehended 16 individuals who have jumped the fence over the last five years, including six this year alone. In fact, on September 11, 2014, a week prior to the events that are the subject of today’s hearing, officers apprehended an individual seconds after he scaled the fence and ran onto the grounds,” she said
CNN’s Jason Hanna and Eliott C. McLaughlin contributed to this report.