White House rooms, TSA hearing evacuated Tuesday

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Credit: CNN

A series of security scares closed portions of the White House and Capitol Hill on Tuesday.

In the middle of White House press secretary Josh Earnest’s daily briefing, officials told all reporters to evacuate the briefing room. The North Lawn of the White House was also cleared.

There was no reason provided for the moves at the White House but they came just hours after U.S. Capitol Police received a bomb threat that forced the evacuation of a hearing in the Dirksen Senate office building.

The Senate building was later given the all clear and there’s no sign of whether the two events were connected. Reporters were allowed back into the briefing room roughly a half hour after the evacuation began.

The TSA hearing was called by the Senate Homeland Security and Government Affairs Committee in response to a report that was leaked revealing significant flaws in the agency’s terror-vetting process. According to a CNN report, cracks in the system included TSA failing to identify 73 active workers who had links to terrorism.

Witnesses at the hearing on Tuesday included: U.S. 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.

All the witnesses voiced concern over both systematic errors and agency moral. Other issues TSA was criticized for included the increased use of pre-check without the proper vetting, the emphasis from certain executives for efficiency over security, and the large vulnerabilities that can occur over simple human error mistakes.

“The DHS is handing out TSA pre-check like Halloween candy,” Roering said.

Sen. Ron Johnson, R-Wisconsin, noted during the hearing the extensive interaction the agency has with the American public stating the 46,000 TSA officers screen nearly 2 million passengers each day.

“The culture that exists and TSA is one of fear and distrust,” Roering said.

The committee is responsible for all oversight regarding homeland security beginning in 2003 according to the committee’s website.