House lawmakers cite 'grave concerns' with competence of Secret Service

House lawmakers cite 'grave concerns' with competence of Secret Service
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The bipartisan leaders of the House Judiciary Committee went after the Secret Service on Thursday, questioning the competence of the embattled agency in the wake of several high-profile security breaches involving President Obama.


In a strongly worded letter to acting Secret Service Director Joseph Clancy, the lawmakers — including Chairman Bob GoodlatteRobert (Bob) William GoodlatteNo documents? Hoping for legalization? Be wary of Joe Biden Press: Trump's final presidential pardon: himself USCIS chief Cuccinelli blames Paul Ryan for immigration inaction MORE (R-Va.) and ranking member John ConyersJohn James ConyersBiden's immigration plan has serious problems Tlaib wins Michigan Democratic primary Tlaib holds lead in early vote count against primary challenger MORE (D-Mich.) — said the panel “has grave concerns about the policies, procedures, and judgment of the United States Secret Service.” [Read the letter from Judiciary Committee leaders.]

“As members of the committee of primary jurisdiction over many of the Secret Service's functions, including its critical role in protecting the president and the White House complex, we are deeply concerned with the Service's ability to effectively identify, intercept, and disrupt threats to the president of the United States,” the lawmakers wrote Thursday.

Reps. James Sensenbrenner Jr. (R-Wis.) and Bobby Scott (D-Va.), who head the committee's subpanel on crime, terrorism, homeland security and investigations, also endorsed the letter.

The firestorm surrounding the Secret Service erupted on Sept. 19 when Omar J. Gonzalez, a 42-year-old Army veteran, allegedly scaled the White House fence with a knife, raced across the lawn and was able to enter the building before being apprehended. Obama was not in the White House at the time, having left for Camp David with his daughters just minutes beforehand. Gonzalez has pleaded not guilty.

In another episode three days earlier, an armed security contractor rode in an elevator carrying the president and members of his security detail at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta.

In their letter, the House Judiciary Committee leaders posed 13 questions to Clancy, most of them related to those two September incidents. 

Among them, the lawmakers want to know what steps the Secret Service is taking to review its policies in the wake of the fence-jumping case, whether the agency followed protocol in apprehending Gonzalez, and why the White House door was unlocked on a Friday evening.

The committee leaders are vowing to hold a series of hearings on the topic, both public and private, when Congress returns to Washington following November's midterm elections.