Secret Service Director Resigns

Secret Service director Julia Pierson prepares to testify to the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee on the White House perimeter breach at the Rayburn House Office Building, in Washington, D.C., on Sept. 30, 2014 - Chip Somodevilla—Getty Images
Secret Service director Julia Pierson prepares to testify to the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee on the White House perimeter breach at the Rayburn House Office Building, in Washington, D.C., on Sept. 30, 2014 Chip Somodevilla—Getty Images

Following a fence jumper who made it inside and other revelations

Zeke Miller is a political reporter for TIME. He previously was the first White House correspondent at BuzzFeed and extensively covered the 2012 presidential campaign. Prior to that, he covered politics for Business Insider. A New York native, he graduated from Yale University where he was an editor and reporter at the Yale Daily News.

Julia Pierson, the embattled director of the U.S. Secret Service, resigned Wednesday amid embarrassing new revelations of breaches to the protective cordon around President Barack Obama.

Pierson, who had been in the job only a year, submitted her resignation to Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson, who accepted, Johnson said in a statement. The move comes a day after a contentious hearing on Capitol Hill over how an armed man managed to jump the White House fence and enter the Executive Mansion last month before being apprehended by officers, and hours after congressional leaders, including House minority leader Nancy Pelosi, indicated she should resign.

The White House had publicly stood by Pierson, and Obama phoned Pierson to thank her for her 30 years of service to the agency after she resigned Wednesday afternoon. But Pierson lost that support following “accumulating” reports of gaps in presidential security, including reports Tuesday that an armed contract security guard who was improperly screened by Secret Service agents managed to ride in an elevator with Obama during a visit to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta last month. The White House first learned of that incident “shortly before it was reported by a news organization,” White House press secretary Josh Earnest said.

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“The President concluded that new leadership of that agency was required,” Earnest said. He later added the White House learned of the elevator incident “just minutes” before it was published in the press.

Congressional lawmakers have been calling for an independent commission to investigate the Secret Service for days. Representative Jason Chaffetz, one of Pierson’s most vocal critics on Capitol hill, praised her resignation.

“Director Pierson’s resignation is a matter of national security and I am pleased she is stepping down,” said Chaffetz on Wednesday. ‘The position should be filled immediately by new leadership from outside the Secret Service for a fresh start.”

Representative Elijah Cummings, ranking member of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, said he “respects” Pierson’s decision to step down. He added that “now we have to ensure that we focus on the difficult work of fully restoring the Secret Service to its rightful status as the most elite protective service in the world.”

House Oversight and Government Reform Committee chairman Darrell Issa, however, said that “problems at the Secret Service predate Ms. Pierson’s tenure as director, and her resignation certainly does not resolve them. The Oversight Committee will continue to examine clear and serious agency failures at the Secret Service that have been exposed.”

Johnson named Joseph Clancy, a retired agent who previously led the agency’s Presidential Protective Division, as the interim acting director of the Secret Service, while taking the ongoing review of the Sept. 19 fence-jumping incident out of the hands of the agency. Clancy was most recently director of corporate security at Comcast.

Deputy Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro Mayorkas and the department’s general counsel will now oversee the inquiry, with its report due on Nov. 1. Johnson is also appointing a panel of outside experts, yet to be named, to conduct an independent outside investigation of security at the White House compound, as well as broader issues that have plagued the Secret Service in recent months.

A House Democratic aide said Pierson was asked during a closed-door classified session with lawmakers Tuesday whether there were any additional security incidents she was aware of that had not been disclosed, and that she was silent on the elevator incident.

— With reporting by Alex Rogers / Washington

Clancy, left, crosses Pennsylvania Avenue with President Barack Obama, and Obama's aide Reggie Love, rear, while walking back to the White House in Washington D.C., on March 1, 2010. Charles Dharapak—AP
Clancy holds the door for Barack Obama as the President departs Andrews Air Force Base in Md. on Feb. 12, 2009. Brooks Kraft—Corbis
President Barack Obama greets supporters at the Fort Meyers airport in Florida, as Clancy stands watch behind the President's left shoulder, Feb. 10, 2009. Brooks Kraft—Corbis
Blink and you might miss him, but here's Clancy again, flanking President Obama and first lady Michelle Obama as they wave to crowds along the inaugural parade route in Washington D.C. on Jan. 20, 2009. Charles Dharapak—AP
Clancy is seen speaking over the radio into his palm mic as he glances in the camera's direction as President Barack Obama and his family walk back to the White House after attending St. John's Episcopal Church in Washington D.C. on Oct. 11, 2009. Susan Walsh—AP
Clancy braves the rain as umbrella-carrying President Barack Obama and British Prime Minister David Cameron walk from Marine One in Toronto, after their flight from the G8 Summit to the G20 Summit on June 26, 2010. Jason Reed—Reuters
Clancy blends in on stage as Obama speaks at the Arizona State University commencement ceremony at Sun Devil Stadium in Tempe, Ariz. on May 13, 2009. Brooks Kraft—Corbis
Solar panels make good camouflage as Clancy and another Secret Service agent accompany the President and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid at Nellis Air Force Base in Nevada, on May 27, 2009. Brooks Kraft—Corbis
President Barack Obama jogs up the steps to speak at a fundraiser for the Democratic National Committee and Sen. Barbara Boxer, with Clancy watching closely from the wings, at the California Science Center in Los Angeles, April 19, 2010. Alex Brandon—AP
Eyeing those extended arms warily, Clancy keeps hold on President Barack Obama as he shakes hands with people outside of the Top Pot Doughnuts shop in Seattle on Oct. 21, 2010. Jim Watson—AFP/Getty Images
Clancy in the foreground, as Obama is reflected in a garage window in a backyard at the Weithman family home on Aug 18, 2010 in Columbus, Ohio. Mike Munden—Getty Images
Clancy scans the crowd seated just behind Obama and former President Bill Clinton as the two talk at a memorial service for Sen. Robert Byrd on July 2, 2010, at the Capitol in Charleston, WV. Charles Dharapak—AP
President Barack Obama holds hands with daughter Sasha as they walk away from Marine One on the South Lawn of the White House in Washington D.C. after arriving home from their vacation in Hawaii, with Clancy facing outward nearby, on Jan. 4, 2010. Lawrence Jackson—The White House
With hands folded, Clancy watches the press watching President Barack Obama wave as he arrives at the White House in Washington D.C. on Oct. 15, 2010. Nicholas Kamm—AFP/Getty Images
President Barack Obama meets with NCTC Director Michael Leiter, center right, leadership and analysts in the Secure Video Teleconference Room at the National Counterterrorism Center in McLean, Va, on Oct. 6, 2009. Samantha Appleton—The White House
National Security Advisor General James Jones, left, and Clancy coordinate arrival details by telephone for President Barack Obama's visit to Baghdad on April 7, 2009. Pete Souza—The White House
A flood of bright lights fall on Clancy and other agents as the President waves to press watching the arrival of Air Force One in Springfield, Ill. on Feb. 12, 2009. Brooks Kraft—Corbis
Clancy has President Barack Obama's back during a frenzied meet-and-greet with the audience after speaking about health care reform at the Patriot Center at George Mason University in Fairfax, Va. on March 19, 2010. Charles Dharapak—AP
Clancy stands watch as the President boards Air Force One at Buckley Air Force Base in Denver, Colo., en route to Las Vegas, Nev. on Feb. 18, 2010. Pete Souza—The White House

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