President Obama riding elevator with armed felon is latest in list of Secret Service scandals
WASHINGTON (AP/WJLA) - President Barack Obama rode an elevator this month with an armed security contractor who had three criminal convictions, a violation of Secret Service security protocols, according to published reports.
The latest embarrassment for the Secret Service comes after agency Director Julia Pierson on Tuesday took full responsibility for a Sept. 19 breach of security when a man carrying a knife got into the White House.
The Washington Examiner and The Washington Post reported that the elevator incident took place during Obama's Sept. 16 visit to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta.
The Post said agents questioned the contractor and discovered his criminal history after he refused to stop video recording the president with a phone camera.
Agents didn't know he was armed until a supervisor fired the contractor on the spot and the man turned over his gun, the newspapers said.
A Secret Service spokesman confirmed the incident but declined to comment further, citing an ongoing investigation of the event.
Here's a look at other high-profile Secret Service scandals during the Obama administration:
Nov. 24, 2009
It was Obama's first state dinner, and he was hosting India's prime minister. The guest list included Hollywood A-listers, but not an attention-hungry couple auditioning for roles on the Bravo reality show "Real Housewives of D.C."
Yet Tareq and Michaele Salahi of Virginia went through the Secret Service security checkpoint, shook hands with Obama and had their picture taken with Vice President Joe Biden.
After the security breach, Secret Service Director Mark Sullivan said normal security protocols had not been followed and took the blame. Three uniformed division officers were placed on administrative leave. The White House acknowledged that there wasn't anyone from the social office at the checkpoint to help identify guests, a departure from previous administrations' practices. Three months after the incident, White House social secretary Desiree Rogers stepped down.
Obama called the incident a "screw-up" and said he was unhappy with everyone involved, and it wouldn't happen again.
Two upscale hair stylists testified before a federal grand jury investigating the Salahis. Congress also held hearings, and the Salahis refused to testify, invoking their Fifth Amendment right. No charges were filed.
Nov. 11, 2011
Gunshots were fired at the White House, and at least one bullet pierced a window on the third level of the mansion, according to the Secret Service. The president and first lady Michelle Obama were out of town, but one of their daughters and Mrs. Obama's mother were inside. But it took four days from when the shots were heard in the vicinity of the White House until a housekeeper discovered the punctured window.
The gunman, Oscar R. Ortega-Hernandez of Idaho, had previously made "derogatory and threatening" comments about the president, the agency said. Ortega-Hernandez was sentenced to 25 years in prison for the attack.
The Washington Post reported the delayed discovery three years later. Secret Service Director Julia Pierson said there was confusion about where the shots were fired from and what witnesses saw at the time. She was asked about the incident when she testified before Congress about the September 2014 security breach. The Post reported that a Secret Service employee officer heard the gunshots and thought they were directed at the White House but was told by a superior to stand down. Pierson said she's asked the agency's office of professional responsibility to look into the account.
April 11, 2012
A Secret Service officer met a Colombian prostitute at a club in Cartagena, a few days before the president was to arrive for a South American summit. The prostitute later told U.S. government investigators that she told the Secret Service officer the cost would be $800. She said the next morning, the officer refused to pay and only offered her $30 for a taxi. There was an argument in the hallway of the hotel, and soon after a dozen Secret Service employees were relieved of duty because of allegations of misconduct.
Nine of the 13 Secret Service officers and agents involved eventually left the agency - resigned, forced out or retired, according to an official familiar with the investigation. The official was not authorized to discuss personnel matters by name and spoke on condition of anonymity. The Secret Service issued new rules for conduct, and lawmakers called for a change in the culture of the agency.
Sept. 19, 2014
Omar J. Gonzalez jumped over the White House fence, sprinted across the lawn, through the unlocked front doors of the White House, knocked over a Secret Service officer, ran past the staircase that leads to the first family's residential quarters and was tackled by a Secret Service agent in the cross hall of the executive mansion near the Green Room entrance.
Gonzalez was on the Secret Service radar as early as July when Virginia state troopers arrested him during a traffic stop in a southwest region of the state. State troopers there said Gonzalez had an illegal sawed-off shotgun and a map of Washington tucked inside a Bible with a circle around the White House, other monuments and campgrounds. The troopers seized a stash of other weapons and ammunition found during a search of Gonzalez's car after his arrest.
The Secret Service interviewed Gonzalez in July, but had nothing to hold him on. Gonzalez was released on bail. Then, on Aug. 25, Gonzalez was stopped and questioned again while he was walking along the south fence of the White House. He had a hatchet, but no firearms. His car was searched, but he was not arrested.
Two Secret Service officers recognized Gonzalez on Sept. 19 near the White House and "observed him for some time," Pierson said Tuesday. The officers recognized him from their interaction with him in August, she said.
"He wasn't acting inappropriately," Pierson said of Gonzalez before he jumped the fence on Sept. 19. "He didn't violate any laws."