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Watchdog outlines Secret Service failures in incident involving man entering White House

Government investigators released their report Tuesday on the security lapses that allowed a fence jumper armed with a knife to easily get into the White House in September 2014
White House fence jumper report released 02:09

The Secret Service's failure to react immediately to a 2014 fence jumper who was able to make it inside the White House was due to technical problems with radios and notification systems as well as construction at the White House, according to a new report.

Published Tuesday by the Department of Homeland Security's inspector general, the heavily redacted report said that on the night of September 19, 2014, there was a communication breakdown among Secret Service personnel when Omar Gonzalez decided to scale a 7 ft. 6 inch iron fence that was under construction on the north side of the White House.

What's with all the White House fence jumpers? 00:46

Within four minutes, Gonzalez had made it over the fence, ran across the White House grounds to the North portico doors, which were open and unlocked, and knocked down an officer posted on the other side who "could not lock the doors."

In all he eluded eight secret service members before being apprehended in the East Room. He was found carrying a knife.

Gonzalez passed eight Secret Service personnel unhindered before he was apprehended, the report said.

"No other fence jumper has ever made it so far through the Secret Service's defenses," it said.

When the incident began to unfold, the report said there were problems with radio transmissions and at least one Secret Service post didn't have audio capability. As a result, many officers were unaware of what was happening. Inadequate training and inexperience using radios, in addition to the old age of the equipment, might have also contributed to the situation, the report said.

According to the report, the series of failures included the alarm system inside the command center being set too low to be audible and the alarm system inside the white house being "muted," a revelation personnel quoted in the report called "shocking."

Responding officers "did not hear any radio communications about the fence jumper" and one officer who drew his weapon and took cover behind a pillar "was reacting to what he thought was a fight."

For the last two years, Congress allocated more overall funding to the Secret Service than the agency had requested, but the report explains that it often has to direct funding intended for unexpected events or trips rather than making upgrades to their equipment.

Trees and foliage also obscured the view of Gonzalez for Secret Service officers once he was on White House grounds.

"Severe" understaffing might have also impeded the response, the report said. As of 2015, the Uniformed Division of officers for the White House was short 72 officers, but taking into account giving their officers regular days off, they were short 159 officers.

At the time of the incident, President Obama was not at the White House and had just left the South grounds of the complex by helicopter to head to Camp David. The report also notes that before the incident, federal law enforcement was made aware that state and local law enforcement had arrested him, but concluded he didn't pose a threat to Mr. Obama or the White House.

After the incident, investigators found more than 800 rounds of ammunition in Gonzalez's car as well as two hatchets and a machete.

The Secret Service has taken action since that incident to try to ensure that it wouldn't happen again, but the report said "it's too early to tell whether these actions will lead to more effective protective operations."

The inspector general, meanwhile, issued 14 different recommendations in the report including regularly testing radios and establishing protocols at an operations center to monitor cameras from both sides of the White House grounds. In a statement, the Secret Service said they concurred with all 14 recommendations.

"We are confident that the actions we have taken and will take will continually enhance our organization and operations," the statement continues. "Our workforce remains dedicated to protecting the nation's highest leaders and the facilities we secure."

Gonzalez was sentenced last June to 17 months in prison plus 36 months of supervised release. He was released, however, in December after the judge in the case believed that as long as he stayed on his medication, he doesn't pose a threat to society.

"I mean it is totally unacceptable that someone wearing Crocs, who already had foot problems, could make his way all the way in past security, into the white house," said Congressman Jason Chaffetz, chairman of the House Oversight Committee.

CBS News' Jillian Hughes, Paula Reid and Arden Farhi contributed to this report.

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