Rep. Jason Chaffetz wants the Secret Service to use “overwhelming force” against White House intruders.
The Utah Republican grilled Secret Service Director Julia Pierson at a House Oversight Committee hearing on Tuesday, one day after the Washington Post broke the news that fence-jumper Omar Gonzalez penetrated deeper than previously known into the White House building, overpowering a Secret Service agent while carrying a knife.
Chaffetz asked when Secret Service agents are permitted to use “lethal force,” to which Pierson responded that it’s “always true” that officers have that authority “as appropriate within the confines of the law.” He asked how an officer would know if a possible White House intruder has an explosive, and whether they should “assume” the person has ill intentions.
“I think it’s confusing,” Chaffetz said. “This is part of what they have to deal with. They make a split-second decision. I want it to be crystal clear, you make a run and a dash for the White House, we’re gonna take you down. I want overwhelming force. Would you disagree with me?”
Pierson responded, “I do want our officers and agents to execute appropriate force for anyone attempting to challenge or breach the White House.”
Rep. Gerry Connolly (D-VA) took issue with Chaffetz’s remarks, accusing him of calling for any fence-crosser to be “shot on sight.”
“I am reluctant to join him in that kind of advice to the Secret Service because there is a first family at the White House,” the Democrat said. “There are guests in the White House. It is a busy and bustling place, and the idea that we are going to have a shootout on the White House grounds seems to me to be a last resort, not a first resort, and I’m not sure members of Congress ought to be in the business of actually spelling out Secret Service protocols for you.”
Chaffetz, a senior Republican on the committee, is vying to become its chairman next year as Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA) is term-limited out.