Secret Service Briefly Locks Down White House After Bomb-Sniffing Dog’s Alert and Nearby Fire

New York Times – by MICHAEL D. SHEAR

WASHINGTON — The White House was put under a security lockdown Saturday morning by the Secret Service after a bomb-sniffing dog alerted its handlers to examine a car not far from the presidential residence and offices, a spokesman for the agency said.

The lockdown, which started around 10:15 a.m. and forced the closing of several roads, also followed a fire at a food vendor cart just outside the White House perimeter. Secret Service officials did not say whether the two incidents were related.  

Shortly after noon, the Secret Service said the vehicle had been determined not to be a threat, and the fire department had contained the smoke and fire at the vendor cart. Streets around the White House were reopened, a spokesman said.

President Obama and his family were in the White House at the time, preparing to leave for Selma, Ala., to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the Bloody Sunday march across the Edmund Pettus Bridge.

Mr. Obama and his family left, a bit behind schedule, in a motorcade rather than taking the usual helicopter ride to Andrews Air Force Base to boardAir Force One. Secret Service officials declined to say whether the switch to a motorcade had been related to the lockdown.

Brief lockdowns at the White House are not uncommon, and are often caused by the discovery of an unattended package near the grounds. But in recent months, the Secret Service has been under intense scrutiny for its response to more serious threats, including a drone that crashed on the White House lawn and a man who jumped the White House fence, ran through the North Portico doors and made it into the East Room.

On Saturday, Secret Service officers cordoned off Lafayette Square across Pennsylvania Avenue from the White House using barricades and police tape to divert pedestrians and other visitors. Officers also stopped bystanders from crossing several other nearby streets.

Members of the news media working in the briefing room, which is between the White House residence and the West Wing, were locked in the building after hearing a loud noise.

“As pool and other press gathered outside near the South Lawn for the departure of President Obama and the first family on the way to Selma, Ala., for a historic 50th anniversary march, a loud noise was heard,” David McCumber of Hearst Newspapers, who was the on-duty pool reporter at the White House, wrote. “Secret Service then moved press back into the briefing room and locked the doors.”

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