A laptop with sensitive security information on it was stolen from a Secret Service agent in New York City, law enforcement officials said Friday, prompting a multiagency investigation to try to retrieve it.
The Secret Service said in a statement that “an employee was the victim of a criminal act in which our agency-issued laptop computer was stolen.”
The investigation into the laptop theft occurred as a House committee separately launched an investigation into an intrusion earlier this month on White House grounds.
The agency tried to dispel concerns about the security risks posed by the theft, saying their agents’ laptops “contain multiple layers of security including full disk encryption and are not permitted to contain classified information.”
The agency did not say what sensitive information might be on the laptop, but one law enforcement official said it contained building and security plans for Trump Tower, home of President Donald Trump and his family.
The official said the laptop was stolen from a vehicle in the driveway of the agent’s home in Brooklyn on Thursday morning. The computer was in a bag that was later recovered, but the laptop was no longer in it, the official said. A personal laptop was also in the bag and taken by the thief, but officials are less concerned about the data on that device, the official said.
Authorities have recovered video of a man walking away with the bag, and are chasing a number of leads to try to find him, the official said.
The report of an intensive search for the device came as a House oversight committee ordered the Secret Service to preserve documents and deliver a full briefing Monday about a March 10 episode at the executive mansion.
In a letter Friday to Acting U.S. Secret Service Director William Callahan, House Committee on Oversight on Government Reform chairman Rep. Jason Chaffetz, R-Utah, said his panel had received potentially troubling allegations about security protocols in which a California man was arrested near the South Portico entrance.
“I worry this is the worst one yet,” Chaffetz said. “The time on the White House grounds really concerns me. With the President in the White House the intruder was evidently able to hide behind a pillar and get to a door undetected. The problem has persisted for years and is totally unacceptable. It scares me.”
CNN reported that the suspect, Jonathan Tran, 26, of Milpitas, California, walked the grounds of the White House for 15 minutes or more before being arrested at about 11:38 p.m. that Friday night.
“The response to the alarm was lacking,” according to CNN which quoted an agency source it did not name. The suspect allegedly jumped multiple fences and set off several alarms while evading others, the cable network said.
The U.S. Secret Service did not immediately respond Friday to questions about the CNN report.
The day’s events threatened to renew scrutiny of the agency, which underwent a management overhaul after a string of revelation and lapses after a 2014 incident in which intruder Omar Gonzalez made his way deep into the executive mansion before being tackled by an off-duty agent in the East Room.
Chaffetz directed the agency to preserve and hand over all video of White House grounds from 10 p.m. to 1 a.m. that Friday night, all joint operations center activity logs, all documents and communications related to alarms, the incident and the agency response, and all subsequent reviews.
“The individual may have triggered alarms the USSS ignored, may have moved around on the White House grounds undetected for a considerable amount of time, and may have attempted entry into the building,” Chaffetz wrote.
“Time is of the essence,” Chaffetz wrote, directing the agency to preserve all records. “The Committee has long-standing concerns regarding repeated security incidents at USSS protected facilities. ”
Tran, who was carrying a backpack and two cans of mace, was charged with entering or remaining on restricted grounds while carrying a dangerous weapon and faces a statutory maximum of 10 years in prison if convicted. A U.S. magistrate released him to his family’s home in Northern California on personal recognizance subject to court and electronic monitoring, mental evaluation and treatment if necessary.
Tran was arrested carrying a book on Trump, a U.S. passport and a laptop containing a letter addressed to the president about Russian hackers saying Tran had found “information of relevance,” according to a criminal complaint filed March 11.
Tran stated he had jumped the fence and added, “I am a friend of the president,” Secret Service officer Wayne Azevedo wrote in an affidavit.
Trump last weekend praised the service for doing “a fantastic job last night” responding to a “troubled person.”
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