Secret Service Director Resigns in Scandal Over Security Lapses


WASHINGTON — Julia Pierson, the director of the Secret Service, is resigning in the wake of several security breaches.

Ms. Pierson offered her resignation on Wednesday during a meeting with Jeh C. Johnson, the secretary of the Department of Homeland Security, the agency that oversees the Secret Service. The resignation came less than a day after lawmakers from both parties assailed Ms. Pierson’s leadership and said they feared for the lives of the president and others in the protection of the agency.  

In a statement, Mr. Johnson said that he had appointed Joseph Clancy, a former agent in charge of the Presidential Protective Division, to become the Secret Service’s acting director. Mr. Clancy was in charge of the presidential detail the night in November 2009 when Michaele and Tareq Salahi, then a married couple, managed to get past Secret Service checkpoints for President Obama’s first state dinner without being on the guest list.

Mr. Obama called Ms. Pierson after her decision “to thank her for her service to the agency and the country,” said Josh Earnest, the president’s press secretary. “The president is deeply appreciative of her service.”

Mr. Johnson said that he was directing his deputy at the Department of Homeland Security to oversee an internal review of the Sept. 19 incident in which an intruder jumped over the fence around the White House and made it deep inside the mansion.

And bowing to growing demands for an outside inquiry by Democratic and Republican members of Congress, Mr. Johnson said that he would appoint a “distinguished panel of independent experts” to report recommendations to him by Dec. 15.

“I will also request that the panel advise me about whether it believes, given the series of recent events, there should be a review of broader issues concerning the Secret Service,” Mr. Johnson said in the statement. “The security of the White House compound should be the panel’s primary and immediate priority.”

It is unclear whether the creation of that panel will be enough to satisfy critics of Ms. Pierson and the agency, who said over the last 24 hours that they had lost confidence in the agency’s ability to protect the president and his family.

In a brief interview with Del Quentin Wilber, a reporter for Bloomberg News, Ms. Pierson said that she resigned because “Congress has lost confidence in my ability to run the agency,” according to a Twitter message from Mr. Wilber shortly after the resignation was announced.

Mr. Wilber also wrote that Ms. Pierson said: “I can be pretty stoic about all this, but not really. It’s painful to leave.”

Mr. Earnest, the press secretary, had forcefully defended Ms. Pierson on Wednesday morning, saying that Mr. Obama remained fully confident in her leadership and in the ability of the agency to protect him.

But shortly after her resignation was announced, Mr. Earnest said that the president had agreed that a change was necessary.

“Director Pierson offered her resignation today because she believes it is in the best interest of the agency to which she had devoted her career,” Mr. Earnest said. He added that Mr. Obama agreed, saying, “The president concluded that new leadership of that agency was required.”

Ms. Pierson, a 30-year veteran of the Secret Service, was supposed to have been the one to repair the agency’s reputation after scandals involving drinking and prostitution during overseas trips.

But her tenure has been rocked by more serious allegations that her agents and officers have not been performing their primary job competently. Under intense questioning on Capitol Hill on Tuesday, Ms. Pierson admitted that those charged with securing the White House had failed to follow numerous security protocols, allowing a man armed with a knife to penetrate deep inside the mansion.

And late Tuesday, the agency acknowledged that just days before the White House breach, an armed man was allowed to ride in an elevator with the president during an event at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta.

Mr. Earnest said the White House was not told about the Atlanta incident until Tuesday, shortly before it was reported by news outlets. Asked if the Secret Service was not adequately keeping the White House informed, Mr. Earnest said that would be examined by the review panel.

Through the last two weeks, Mr. Obama’s aides had repeatedly declared that he retained full confidence in the agency and in Ms. Pierson’s ability to lead it. But the disclosures in the past few days — including revelations that the Secret Service had not been fully forthcoming about the details of the incidents — appear to have been too much.

On Wednesday, Democratic and Republican lawmakers heaped new criticism on Ms. Pierson, raising new questions about her ability to lead the agency and protect President Obama.

Representative Elijah J. Cummings, Democrat of Maryland, commended Ms. Pierson for stepping down, saying that her resignation was in the best interest of the Secret Service and the president. But he said more change was necessary, including, possibly, more resignations.

“I think we need to look beyond her resignation,” Mr. Cummings said in an interview. “I don’t want us, after she’s left, to say to ourselves that everything is resolved. Clearly there was a culture there that was not healthy.”

On Wednesday, the intruder who jumped the White House fence, Omar J. Gonzalez, pleaded not guilty to charges of unlawfully entering a restricted government building while carrying a weapon, carrying a dangerous weapon in public and unlawfully possessing ammunition.

Mr. Gonzalez walked into the United States District Court here with his hands behind his back but not cuffed, wearing an orange jumpsuit. He listened intently as his lawyer entered his plea and waived Mr. Gonzalez’s right to a detention hearing. Judge Deborah A. Robinson ruled that Mr. Gonzalez would be detained until another hearing on Oct. 21.

Joseph Clancy, a former agent in charge of the Presidential Protective Division, will become the agency’s acting director. CreditPaul Sancya/Associated Press

9 thoughts on “Secret Service Director Resigns in Scandal Over Security Lapses

  1. She looks even more of an ogre than Janet Napolitano. Where the hell do they find these ogres and why do they keep putting them in these positions?

  2. How many vacations has this guy been on? How many golfing trips? Somebody probably tried to tell him to knock it off but it did no good. Now they got security lapses. Gee I can’t imagine why.

  3. Smells like she’s getting a job promotion to the private sector perhaps? Seems the only way these people leave is to take on a higher paying non-governmental position.

  4. I have to wonder if they’re not preparing us for his imminent assassination. The sheeple need a few stories like this to convince them it’s possible.

  5. I would think that all the lapses stem from the fact that we have an imposter in chief, who has no respect for the secret service and vice versa. If I was in charge of keeping him safe, I would be drunk and chasing women also, and not give a damn about who climbs the fence. I am sure all the good ones took early retirement, hence we wound up with the goofy lesbo and the give a shits.

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