An intruder armed with a knife who jumped a fence and sprinted across the White House lawn earlier this month, got much further into the presidential mansion than previously thought, a report has said.
The Washington Post newspaper said the man rushed in through the front door of the White House and ran into the ceremonial East Room, one floor below the private residence of President Barack Obama and his family.
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The man, Omar Gonzalez from the US state of Texas, was eventually intercepted outside the Green Room, an ornamental chamber that overlooks the South Lawn of the White House – on the opposite side of the building from the main North doors, through which he entered.
Obama and his daughters had left the presidential residence minutes before the intrusion, by helicopter from the South Lawn, for the presidential retreat at Camp David in Maryland.
After the incident, on September 19, the Secret Service said in a statement that Gonzalez was “physically apprehended after entering the White House North Portico doors”.
Another Secret Service spokesman was quoted as saying the man was stopped “just inside” the North Portico doors.
There was no immediate comment from the US Secret Service about the latest Washington Post report.
But the revelation comes on the heels of another embarrassing report for the Secret Service at the weekend.
Shots fired at White House
The Post revealed that it took the Secret Service five days before realising a man had fired shots at the White House in 2011 while one of Obama’s daughters was inside.
First Lady Michelle Obama was reported to be furious about the incident which took place when she and her husband were out of town.
In all, at least seven bullets struck the upstairs residence of the White House, fired from a car parked about 600 metres away across the South Lawn.
The Secret Service has launched an investigation into the Gonzalez incident, which appeared to highlight deep failures of security by the elite presidential protection team around the White House.
Last week, a new temporary fence appeared on Pennsylvania Avenue outside the perimeter White House fence to deter intruders.
Incidents in which people jump over the fence or throw objects into the grounds around the White House are not unusual.
But it is believed to be the first time an intruder actually penetrated the White House, which is protected by marksmen, dogs and uniformed Secret Service officers.