Parts of Dirksen Senate Office Building on Capitol Hill were evacuated today during a Senate hearing to examine Transportation Security Administration failures.
It was a phone call reporting a suspicious package that interrupted the third-floor Senate Homeland Security and Government Affairs Committee hearing titled “Oversight of the Transportation Security Administration: First-Hand and Government Watchdog Accounts of Agency Challenges.”
“Due to police activity, portions of Dirksen being evacuated. NW Door closed until further notice. Staff & visitors, avoid the area,” the Senate sergeant-at-arms announced via Twitter. About an hour later: “Police activity in the Dirksen
#Senate building all clear. Norhtwest Door is now open. Thank you staff and visitors for your cooperation.”
Witnesses at the hearing included Department of Homeland Security Inspector General John Roth, Director of Transportation Security and Coast Guard Issues Jennifer Grover, Federal Air Marshal Robert J. MacLean and Assistant Federal Security Director for the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport Rebecca Roering.
Then just after 2 p.m., White House reporters were evacuated from the briefing room. Officials then covered the lenses of standing cameras still operating in the room as they searched the premises.
The daily briefing was being conducted at the time of the evacuation, when Secret Service agents came in and told everyone to leave.
The press corps was moved outside the White House to the Eisenhower Executive Office Building’s South Court auditorium.
The North Lawn of the White House was also evacuated.
“Fortunately here at the White House the Secret Service maintains the resources to quickly make sure the room is safe,” White House press secretary said after reporters were let back in the room and briefing resumed.
Earnest confirmed that the threats were called into D.C. Metro Police.
Earnest was asked by angry reporters why their news feeds were “tampered with” and covered up, and by whom, but he replied that “left the room at the same time as you did” and went back to his office “not far away.”
President Obama was “on the White House grounds” at the time, but was not evacuated. Earnest said he didn’t know if other members of the first family were in the house.
“I can’t account” for why the rest of the West Wing was evacuated, Earnest said.
He eventually referred the flurry of questions to the Secret Service, adding he has “complete confidence” in the decisions made by the Secret Service.