Secret Service vague with details to federal court following fence-jumper arrest

White House intrusion was 'unacceptable'
White House intrusion was 'unacceptable'

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White House intrusion was 'unacceptable' 01:56

Story highlights

  • Secret Service provided vague details of fence jumping incident in initial affidavit
  • Lawmakers are questioning whether Secret Service provided full account of what happened
  • Issa to Secret Service chief: "I want to know if we can rely on reports from your agency"
The U.S. Secret Service offered only vague information in its first criminal filing in federal court about how deep accused fence-jumper Omar Gonzalez entered the White House, in contrast to the dramatic account of the intruder's dash through the building that was revealed by lawmakers Monday.
In a sworn affidavit filed with the court on the night of the incident, Secret Service officer Daniel Hochman offered details based on his "personal observations" of Gonzalez's sprint inside the White House. In his account, Hochman described how he "yelled" at Gonzalez to stop. "Instead, Omar Gonzalez ran toward the White House," Hochman continued.
The officer then suggested that Gonzalez was subdued shortly after making his way through the North Portico doors of the White House.
"Moments later, Omar Gonzalez went through the north doors of the White House and entered the White House. Soon thereafter, inside the White House, Omar Gonzalez was apprehended by United States Secret Service Officers," Hochman said in the affidavit.
As it turned out, Gonzalez made it much farther into the White House than the court filing described. The intruder was stopped in the East Room of the building, a law enforcement official told CNN Monday.
Gonzalez appeared in a DC federal court Wednesday and pleaded not guilty on charges of unlawful entry while armed and two other charges.
On the night of the incident, Secret Service spokesman Brian Leary told CNN Secret Service officers apprehended Gonzalez "just inside the North Portico doors.​"
At a hearing of the House Oversight Committee Tuesday, Chairman Darrell Issa grilled Secret Service Director Julia Pierson on the accuracy of the affidavit on just how far Gonzalez penetrated the White House.
"The federal complaint said he was -- he was in fact apprehended in one place. Isn't it true he was apprehended further into the White House," Issa asked.
Once it was apparent Pierson was not directly answering the question, Issa interjected.
"In fact, the federal complaint and the earlier reports were not accurate, Is that correct? Yes or no, please," Issa asked.
"I think the original complaint is accurate that Mr. Gonzalez scaled the fence," Pierson responded.
Issa cut her off again. "I want to know if we can rely on reports from your agency," Issa complained.
A federal law enforcement official told CNN the information provided to reporters on the night of the intrusion was based on what was told to Secret Service spokesmen at that time.
But the whereabouts of the fence-jumper's capture was not the only discrepancy that night.
Rep. Jason Chaffetz, R-UT pressed Pierson on statements to the media that indicated Gonzalez was unarmed.
On the night of the incident, Leary, the Secret Service spokesman, had told reporters Gonzalez was not carrying a weapon.
But Hochman's affidavit from September 19 states Gonzalez "carried a deadly or dangerous weapon," described as a Spyderco VG-10 black folding knife with a three and a half inch serrated blade.
"Why would the Secret Service put out an official press release saying that," Chaffetz asked about the agency's failure to disclose the knife found on Gonzalez. "Did you call them back and say you got that wrong," Chaffetz continued.
"I have no knowledge of that," Pierson replied.
"Did you read the press release before it went out?" Chaffetz asked.
"I have read the press release before it went out," Pierson answered.
Dan Bongino, a former Secret Service agent and Republican who is running for Congress in Maryland, said affidavits from agency officers are sometimes intentionally vague.
"Why give up free information" to defense attorneys, Bongino said.
But Bongino said Pierson's handling of the Gonzalez case is indicative of the "small, insular group of managers" in charge of the agency.
During Pierson's testimony Tuesday, lawmakers noted her 30 years of service to the embattled agency.
Bongino said Pierson's long tenure and promotion to director are more a reflection of what he described as the agency's practice of promoting from within.
"It's a reflection, sadly, of the cabal," Bongino said.