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Secret Service Director Resigns Following Security Breaches

Image: Secret Service Director Resigns Following Security Breaches
Secret Service Director Julia Pierson. (Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

Wednesday, 01 Oct 2014 03:32 PM

Embattled Secret Service Director Julia Pierson, the first woman to lead the agency in charge of protecting the president, resigned amid mounting criticism over a series of security lapses.

Pierson stepped down only 18 months after President Barack Obama selected her to take over a law enforcement agency that had been tarnished by a prostitution scandal.

“I think it’s in the best interest of the Secret Service and the American public if I step down,” Pierson said in an interview with Bloomberg News after her resignation was announced by the Department of Homeland Security.

Her departure follows mounting criticism by Congress members from both parties, including Obama allies Nancy Pelosi, the House minority leader, and Elijah Cummings, the top Democrat on the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee.

The Secret Service is conducting an internal review of how Omar Gonzalez, a 42-year-old Army veteran, ended up deep in the White House after scaling the fence on the north side of the building on Sept. 19 shortly after Obama had taken off in a helicopter.

While the service initially said Gonzalez was unarmed, court documents showed he had a folding knife in his pocket. He was indicted by a federal grand jury yesterday in Washington on federal charges for illegal entry to a restricted area while carrying a dangerous weapon. He pleaded not guilty during a court hearing today.

In the weeks since the breach, the Secret Service has put up temporary barriers outside the White House’s iron fence, saying the bicycle-rack-style fences provide an added deterrent to would-be fence jumpers.

The Secret Service has been part of the Department of Homeland Security since that agency was created following the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. Homeland Security also houses the Transportation Security Administration, which controls airport security, and Customs and Border Protection, an agency that has been scrutinized this year during an influx of unaccompanied child migrants entering the U.S. at the southwest border.

Pierson’s departure makes her the second consecutive Secret Service director to leave after coming under fire from Congress for lapses at the agency. She follows Mark Sullivan, who retired after a scandal involving agents cavorting with prostitutes while they were in Colombia preparing security for an Obama visit there.

The agency has broad jurisdiction from protecting the president and foreign dignitaries to investigating counterfeiting and credit card fraud. The Secret Service describes itself in its current strategic plan as “one of the oldest federal law enforcement agencies in the country and ranks among the most elite in the world.”

Pierson will be replaced by Joseph Clancy, a West Point graduate who was the former special agent in charge of the president's protective detail. He retired in 2011 and will leave his private-sector job to return to the Secret Service.

Pierson had been with the agency for 30 years.

Homeland Security Director Jeh Johnson said that he was turning over the investigation into the Sept. 19 fence-jumping incident to a DHS official and that he would "convene a distinguished panel of independent experts" to probe it.

The panel is expected to provide recommendations to Johnson by Dec. 15, he said.



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Embattled Secret Service Director Julia Pierson, the first woman to lead the agency in charge of protecting the president, resigned amid mounting criticism over a series of security lapses. Pierson stepped down only 18 months after President Barack Obama selected her to...
US, politics, security, resign
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2014-32-01
Wednesday, 01 Oct 2014 03:32 PM
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