A Republican congressman elicited laughs during a House Oversight Committee hearing into the Sep. 19th security breach at the White House when he suggested that the Secret Service install a home security system to protect the president’s residence from intrusions.
“If someone opens a window or a window is broken at my house, I have an alarm,” Rep. John Mica (R-FL) explained in questioning Secret Service Director Julia Pierson about how an intruder was able to jump over the White House fence and run into the president’s residence before being apprehended by agents in the East Room.
Mica then held up a sign displaying the logo for ADT, a Florida-based home security system.
“Have you ever heard of these guys?” he asked to chuckles from the gallery. “It is not very costly. You can subscribe, that can be installed. It is a simple technology device, a company, a private system can do that,” he said, before adding, “we could put some vegetation barriers, simple things, like how about Spanish bayonet? You jump that fence and you get quite a greeting when you hit the ground, inexpensive invitation — vegetation barriers.” Watch it:
The exchange was a brief moment of levity in an otherwise contentious hearing during which lawmakers from both sides of the aisle grilled Pierson about the security breach.
Members of the committee raised concerns that organized terrorist groups like ISIS could similarly infiltrate the White House and demanded to know why the door of the White House was not locked at the time of the incident, why agents could not apprehend the intruder before he entered the premises, and why the agency initially told the public that the intruder, Omar Gonzalez, was arrested at the entry of the White House. Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-UT) forcefully pressed Pierson on the agents’ decision not to shoot at Gonzales. “At the White House, we are going to take you down, I want overwhelming force, you disagree with me?” he asked.
Pierson agreed that officers and agents should “exercise appropriate force” and ultimately took personal responsibility for the failure and promised a through investigation of the events and a review of current security protocols. But under questioning from Chaffetz, Pierson admitted that she read the agency’s initial press release touting the agents’ “tremendous restraint and discipline” and claiming that the intruder did not enter the president’s residence. She did not explain why she approved the document even though it appeared to be false.
Republicans also took umbrage at Pierson’s implication that the automatic budget cuts knows as sequestration reduced staffing at the agency by approximately 550 personnel and could have contributed to the security breach. Lawmakers pointed out that Congress funded the agency above its funding request in the current fiscal year and that the agency’s own budget requested cuts to 376 full time positions.
“The president is safe today,” Pierson ultimately assured the committee.
Following the hearing, House Oversight Committee Chairman Darrell Issa (R-CA) announced that he, along with Ranking Member Elijah Cummings (D-MD) will be drafting a letter asking for an outside oversight panel to investigate the agency. Issa did not directly call for Pierson’s resignation.