WASHINGTON, October 1, 2014 — After thirty years of government service, Julia Pierson, Director of the Secret Service has resigned. Her resignation was accepted by Jeh Johnson, Secretary of Homeland Security. Earlier today, President Obama called Pierson, in whom he had previously expressed his support and confidence, according to Josh Earnest, to thank her for her dedication and service.
Pierson’s resignation comes the day after testimony before the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform regarding recent security breeches. Her performance before the committee did little to restore faith in the agency, and instead drew harsh criticism from Republicans and Democrats alike.
The final straw was the lack of response to an armed intruder who not only leapt the White House fence, but was able to run into the open, unlocked front door of the White House, and past a Secret Service agent before he was subdued in the East Room.
That security breech resulted in Pierson being called before Congress. High-ranking lawmakers from both parties called for Pierson to resign following her lackluster testimony at hearings regarding the September 19 event, when an Army veteran from Texas jumped the White House fence, running deep into the executive mansion.
Omar J. Gonzalez, a former army sniper diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder after serving in Iraq, had been previously interviewed by the Secret Service following a report by local police who uncovered an arsenal of 11 heavy weapons and an annotated map pointing to the White House in Gonzalez’s possession.
Gonzalez was then discovered walking around outside the White House fence with a hatchet. After saying he was “going camping,” he was released.
On the 19th, two officers recognized Gonzalez outside the White House, but did not report him. Moments later he scaled the fence, running unimpeded across the north lawn and through three rooms of the residence. The first family had left the White House only moments before this incident.
Gonzalez has pleaded not guilty in federal court.
Sen. Chuck Schumer, the number-3 Senate Democrat, and Sen. Lindsey Graham, a Republican, led the public call for Pierson’s resignation. Rep. Jason Chaffetz, a senior Republican on the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, said Pierson should either resign or President Obama should fire her.
“Unfortunately, the Secret Service director’s appearance before the Oversight and Government Reform Committee has left us with more questions than answers,” said House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio. Although he stopped short of calling for Pierson’s resignation in a statement, he backed a call for an independent investigation and said, “the president must make a swift determination on whether the agency is being well-served by its current leadership.”
There are also reports of an armed security contractor, with a prior criminal background, allowed to enter an elevator at the CDC in Atlanta that the President was riding in. The contractor failed to obey an order from secret service agents to stop filming the President on his camera phone. A later background check revealed he had three convictions for assault.
Secret Service agents discovered the man was carrying a gun when a supervisor from the private security company, on being told of agents’ concerns, fired him, and the man turned over his weapon. Pierson failed to report the incident to the President, in direct contradiction of protocol, even though she told Congress that she advised the President 100 percent of the time of any and all security breeches.
The White House learned of this security breech following questions from reporters.
There are also reports that shots were fired at the White House, striking the building, but that the incident was not discovered until days later, the Secret Service not recognizing the gun fire.
Joe Clancy, formerly a lead agent on the President’s detail will be acting as interim director while the administration looks for a new Director. Clancy retired from the Secret Service where he was most recently assigned as the Special Agent in Charge of the Presidential Protective Division.
He has also served as Director of National Special Security Events with Homeland Security, and led a squad of agents in the Secret Service’s New York field office, where they conducted major investigations. According to his official bio, Clancy started his government career in Philadelphia after attending West Point and graduating from Villanova University.
Jeh Johnson also announced that the Department of Homeland Security would take over an internal inquiry of the Secret Service and that he would appoint a panel to review security at the White House. Concerns over light security surrounding the President and first family are heightened in light of recent terrorist threats.
“It’s clear to me that the only way to solve the problem the Secret Service has is with new leadership,” Congressman Lindsey Graham said. “What Julia Pierson describes as mistakes are major security failures on multiple fronts.”
Graham also said that the light security is “the worst possible signal to send to terrorists and our enemies around the world.”