Members of Congress are demanding to know more about how a man was able to jump the White House fence on Thanksgiving. Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton, D-D.C., plans to meet with Secret Service Director Joseph Clancy on Wednesday to find out why temporary improvements to the fence, including spikes on the top, did not prevent Joseph Caputo from scaling it on Nov. 26.
“What I will be most concerned about, because I went down to the White House myself, and saw that people were being kept across the street,” Norton said in a Tuesday phone interview. She and others want to ensure the agency strikes a balance between protecting the president and allowing the American people access to the area around the White House complex.
The ranking member of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee agreed the Secret Service needed to strike that balance between security and access.
“I think that if we can send a man to the moon we ought to be able to…create that balance,” Rep. Elijah E. Cummings, D-Md., said in an interview off the House floor Monday night.
Cummings said he and the committee’s chairman, Rep. Jason Chaffetz, R-Utah, would be briefed on the incident this week.
Cummings said that he and Chaffetz had a handful of meetings with the agency, as well as the manufacturer and designer of the temporary fence. Spikes were added to the fence in July after a series of fence-jumping incidents raised questions about the agency’s effectiveness.
But Cummings noted that the fact that agents apprehended Caputo after he scaled the fence showed an improvement.
“The fact that they got a guy in the White House the other time and that did not happen this time, I think that says a lot,” Cummings said, referring to an incident in September 2014 when Iraq War veteran Omar Gonzalez, who was armed with a knife, jumped the fence and was able to enter the White House.
That security breach prompted a rare congressional hearing during a recess. The next day, Secret Service Director Julia Pierson resigned.
Questions about mismanagement at the agency also led to a review of the Secret Service, known as the Protective Mission Panel, which recommended a new fence around the White House.
Congress incorporated the agency’s request for more funding for a new fence in its Homeland Security appropriations bills for 2016. Both the House and Senate bills included the nearly $87 million in funds the panel recommended for security improvements, including a new fence.
Court documents show Caputo was charged with a felony count of entering or remaining in a restricted area. According to The Washington Post, he plead “not guilty” in federal court Monday. He was allowed to return to Connecticut until his next appearance in court on Jan. 12.
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