The incident in which two Secret Service agents drove while intoxicated through a crime scene has taken on added importance in context of the Secret Service took 11 minutes for the agency to call the Metropolitan Police Department bomb squad when an apparent bomb was left near the White House.
Jason Chaffetz, chairman of the House oversight committee, was furious about the time lapse and also fumed that 17 minutes passed in total while traffic moved past the suspicious package and “several pedestrians walked within feet of the potential bomb.” He added, “I don’t understand how that happens.”
Chaffetz told Secret Service Director Joseph Clancy that the agency had a “botched response” to the supposed threat as Chaffetz played video of the incident, in which a woman left a package and claimed it was a bomb. Cummings told Clancy that Congress has a “microscope” trained on the Secret Service.
Chaffetz said that after the woman left in her car, an agent attempted to follow her but was “mistakenly called off the pursuit when the Secret Service identified the wrong car as the suspect’s.” 30 minutes after the woman left, the Service instituted a “lookout” for her car. 80 minutes after the package, which was discovered to be a book, was dropped off, the scene was finally cleared.
Clancy asserted that an investigation is underway, conducted by the Department of Homeland Security inspector general. He reiterated that he was upset he didn’t get wind of the entire incident until five days later, and only heard the news after being informed of an anonymous email passed through the Secret Service that mentioned the two agents having been “extremely intoxicated” when they “nudged” the barrels and were “waving their White House passes around confused as to why the post was evacuated.”
Chaffetz slammed Clancy for his agency’s lassitude, snapping, “This is the United States of America. The threat is real.” He and Cummings had sent a letter to Clancy expressing their frustration that he would be the only witness to appear at the hearing, stating they were “sorely disappointed.” They said Clancy was “unable to answer questions” when he briefed them on March 17, and added that Clancy had offered “no explanation whatsoever” as to why he would be the only official testifying.