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West Wing is partially evacuated

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WASHINGTON — The West Wing of the White House was partially evacuated Thursday after a car parked on the driveway nearby raised suspicions. President Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney remained at work inside.

National security adviser Condoleezza Rice's office was among those evacuated. At the time, Rice was in a weekly meeting in the office of chief of staff Andrew Card on the other side of the building.

While security precautions are always high at the White House, it is extraordinary that a portion of the building would be evacuated.

People were asked to leave the press office and briefing room of the West Wing, the closest offices to the driveway. Offices also were evacuated in the Old Executive Office Building, which faces the driveway.

Press secretary Ari Fleischer was briefing reporters in his office when an aide, Gordon Johndroe, handed him a note. Fleischer told reporters to leave the building.

Fleischer said offices on the north side of the White House, the side closest to the vehicle, were evacuated. The Oval Office faces south; Cheney's office is in the middle of the West Wing.

Fleischer, calling from Cheney's office, said the Secret Service acted after a dog sniffed a car and barked.

"That's what they're doing," he said. "On this side of the West Wing, it's business as usual." Earlier, the Secret Service closed access to the driveway leading to the West Wing because of suspicions raised about a car parked a few feet from the West Wing.

Vehicles on the White House grounds are routinely checked by dogs trained to smell materials used in explosives.