(CNSNews.com) - "I take full responsibility; what happened is unacceptable and it will never happen again," Secret Service Director Julia Pierson said in her prepared statement to the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee on Tuesday.
She said protecting the White House Complex "is a challenge in any threat environment." In the Sept. 19th incident, she admitted, "It is clear that our security plan was not properly executed."
On Sept. 19, a disturbed Army veteran jumped the wrought iron fence at the White House and sprinted 70 yards to door at the North Portico without being intercepted by agents or an attack dog. The door was unlocked, and the intruder dashed past a staircase leading to the family quarters, through the East Room, all the way to the Green Room, where he was finally tackled by security.
He was carrying a pocketknife, and he reportedly wanted to tell the president that the atmosphere was collapsing.
Pierson told the committee, "All decisions made that evening are being evaluated, including decisions on tactics and use of force, in light of the totality of the
circumstances confronting those officers."
And because some of the information about protecting the president is classified, Pierson said she would be "limited in what I can say in a public hearing."
"The Secret Service must show us a clear path forward to regain the public trust," House Oversight Committee Chairman Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) said in his opening remarks. "We will be asking tough questions today," he promised.
Issa wondered if "declining morale" at the agency has affected the way agents perform their jobs.
"The appointment of Director (Julie) Pierson brought the hope that the agency would reclaim its noble image – but recent events show the troubles facing the agency are far from over," he said.
Pierson told the committee that in the last five years, the Secret Service has apprehended 16 individuals who have jumped the fence, including six this year.
In addition to fence-jumpers, agents have encountered "hundreds of individuals" making threats at the White House fence or acting in a suspicious manner.
"Our officers and agents routinely leverage their training and experience to make decisions to arrest or transfer these individuals to appropriate facilities
for mental health evaluations," Pierson said.