White House brief­ing briefly evac­u­ated


Se­cret Ser­vice agents in­ter­rupted a live, tele­vised White House press brief­ing Tues­day to evac­u­ate jour­nal­ists af­ter a bomb threat was called in to po­lice. No bomb was found, the Se­cret Ser­vice said.

Pres­i­dent Barack Obama was in the Oval Of­fice and re­mained there dur­ing the evac­u­a­tion, which only af­fected the James S. Brady Brief­ing Room. White House press sec­re­tary Josh Earnest, who was brief­ing re­porters at the time of the evac­u­a­tion, said later that first lady Michelle Obama and daugh­ters Sasha and Malia were in the White House res­i­dence and were not evac­u­ated.

The in­ci­dent came af­ter a bomb threat re­lated to the White House brief­ing room was phoned in to lo­cal Wash­ing­ton po­lice, the Se­cret Ser­vice said. Roughly 20 min­utes later, uni­formed Se­cret Ser­vice of­fi­cers on the scene said an all-clear had been is­sued, and jour­nal­ists were later al­lowed back into the White House, where the daily press brief­ing re­sumed.

Evac­u­a­tions at the White House are rare, but not un­prece­dented. Last year, jour­nal­ists and of­fi­cials were tem­po­rar­ily evac­u­ated af­ter a fence-jumper made it in­side the White House.

Yet Tues­day’s in­ci­dent was made more dra­matic by the fact that it took place on cam­era dur­ing a live press brief­ing — the first such in­stance since the White House started al­low­ing live tele­vi­sion cov­er­age of full press brief­ings in the 1990s.

Se­cret Ser­vice spokesman Brian Leary said the de­ci­sion to evac­u­ate only the brief­ing room, while al­low­ing White House of­fi­cials to re­main in other parts of the build­ing, was “due to the spe­cific na­ture of the threat,” although he did not elab­o­rate. He said the Se­cret Ser­vice com­man­der on the scene de­cided to evac­u­ate the brief­ing room “out of an abun­dance of cau­tion.”

Earnest said that the Se­cret Ser­vice had swept the brief­ing room with the help of bomb-sniff­ing dogs be­fore al­low­ing peo­ple to re­turn. As­so­ci­ated Press jour­nal­ists re­turn­ing to their workspace in the White House af­ter the all-clear found items dis­placed, os­ten­si­bly by Se­cret Ser­vice of­fi­cers search­ing for po­ten­tial se­cu­rity threats.

“The evac­u­a­tion was con­ducted to pro­tect the safety of all of us,” Earnest said.

Many tele­vi­sion net­works have per­ma­nent cam­eras in­stalled in the White House brief­ing room. Fol­low­ing the evac­u­a­tion, the cam­eras were pointed up to the ceil­ing so that the brief­ing room was no longer vis­i­ble, then cov­ered com­pletely. The Se­cret Ser­vice had no im­me­di­ate com­ment on why the cam­eras were cov­ered up.


White House Press Sec­re­tary Josh Earnest an­swers a ques­tion about the evac­u­a­tion of the press area of the White House in Wash­ing­ton, Tues­day, June 9.

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