The White House briefing room was evacuated by a bomb threat shortly after 2:00 p.m. Tuesday just hours after a person phoned in a bomb threat to the Capitol that interrupted a hearing in the Dirksen Senate Office Building.
The White House evacuation interrupted the daily briefing by Press Secretary Joshua Earnest, as New York Times reporter Julie Davis began asking a question about the recent federal government data breach that potentially affects millions of government employees. Secret Service entered the room and asked the press corps to evacuate.
The briefing room was cleared and reporters were moved outside the briefing room. About 20 minutes later, they were allowed back inside. The briefing resumed at 2:45 p.m.
"Shortly before 2 o'clock today a telephonic bomb threat concerning the room that we are now all in was called into the Metropolitan Police Department. The local police department contacted secret service officials who determined that for the safety of all of us they needed to evacuate the room and then to sweep it," Earnest said after reporters were allowed back in the room.
A Secret Service statement said the bomb threat was called in at approximately 1:53 p.m. It was limited to just the briefing room and not other sections of the White House, the agency said.
Under federal law, bomb threats carry a sentence of up to 10 years.
It was a highly unusual incident. CBS News White House Correspondent Mark Knoller, who keeps extensive records about the White House, said it was the first time in his memory a briefing had been interrupted.
For a while, network cameras showed agents sweeping the briefing room but then the cameras were covered up.
In the Capitol, U.S. Capitol Police evacuated several floors of Dirksen, including the room where lawmakers were examining challenges faced by the Transportation Security Administration (TSA). People were later allowed to return to those floors.