WASHINGTON (AP) — A spokesman for President Barack Obama said Monday that a “device” was found on the grounds of the White House while the president and first lady were in India but that it posed no threat.
It was unclear if the president’s daughters were at home at the time of the incident. Secret Service had no immediate comment on what it found.
Police, fire and other emergency vehicles swarmed around the White House in the pre-dawn hours, with several clustered near the southeast entrance to the mansion. The White House was dark and the entire perimeter was on lockdown until around 5 a.m., when pass holders who work in the complex were allowed inside.
“There is a device that has been recovered by the Secret Service at the White House,” said press secretary Josh Earnest. “The early indications are that it does not pose any sort of ongoing threat to anybody at the White House.”
Earnest spoke from New Delhi, where Obama and his wife, Michelle, were on a three-day visit. They also planned to stop in Saudi Arabia on Tuesday before they return to Washington.
The incident is the latest in a string of White House security breaches that have led to questions about Secret Service effectiveness. Four of the agency’s highest-ranking executives were reassigned earlier this month. Former Director Julia Pierson’s was forced to resign last year after a Texas man armed with a knife was able to get over a White House fence in September and run deep into the executive mansion before being subdued.
An independent panel, which investigated the agency’s leadership and practices in the wake of the September incident and the disclosure of a previously unreported security breach earlier that month, recommended hiring a new director from outside the agency.
That report was the second critical review of the agency responsible for protecting the president. In November the Homeland Security Department, which oversees the Secret Service, released an internal investigation about the fence-scaling incident, which concluded that poor training, staff and a series of missteps led to the breach.
Homeland Security investigators found, among other things, that uniformed agents patrolling the White House grounds the night of Sept. 19 mistakenly assumed that thick bushes near the mansion’s front door would stop the intruder.