Julia Pierson, the director of the United States Secret Service, resigned on Wednesday amid a rush of criticism over recent White House security breaches.
“Today Julia Pierson, the Director of the United States Secret Service, offered her resignation, and I accepted it,” said Secretary of Homeland Security Jeh Johnson. “I salute her 30 years of distinguished service to the Secret Service and the Nation.”
Joseph Clancy, the former special agent in charge of the presidential protective division of the Secret Service, will take over as interim director, Johnson said.
Johnson also announced the formation of an independent panel to investigate the security breaches, members of which he said would be named “shortly.”
“This panel will submit to me its own assessment and recommendations concerning security of the White House compound,” Johnson said.
“I will also invite the panel to submit to me recommendations for potential new directors of the Secret Service, to include recommendations of individuals who come from outside the Secret Service. 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.”
The panel will report its recommendations to Johnson by Dec. 15.
Pierson has come under intense scrutiny in recent days, and multiple lawmakers on Wednesday called for her to resign or for President Barack Obama to dismiss her. Pierson testified before the House Oversight Committee on Tuesday in response to the mid-September security breach in which Omar Gonzalez, a knife-wielding intruder, jumped over a fence outside the White House and made it deep inside the building.
Gonzalez was eventually able to venture extensively inside the White House, with help from the fact he was able to make it through two unlocked doors. He was eventually tackled near the Green Room after running through most of the East Room, taking a path that led him past a staircase that led to the president’s bedroom. Obama was not in the White House, however, at the time.
The details about how far Gonzalez was able to make it inside the White House were only released in recent days and painted a far more troubling picture than what the agency had originally revealed.
In addition to the Sept. 19 incident, the Secret Service has also come under fire for other incidents in which it took the agency five days to realise bullets had hit the White House in 2011, and in which an armed man was allowed on an elevator with Obama last month.
Here’s the full statement from Johnson on Pierson’s resignation:
Today Julia Pierson, the Director of the United States Secret Service, offered her resignation, and I accepted it. I salute her 30 years of distinguished service to the Secret Service and the Nation.
As an interim Acting Director of the Secret Service, I am appointing Joseph Clancy, formerly Special Agent in Charge of the Presidential Protective Division of the Secret Service. Mr. Clancy retired from the Secret Service in 2011. I appreciate his willingness to leave his position in the private sector on very short notice and return to public service for a period.
Today, I have also asked the Deputy Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro Mayorkas, aided by this Department’s General Counsel, to assume control and direction of the ongoing inquiry by the Secret Service of the fence jumping incident at the White House on September 19. Deputy Secretary Mayorkas should complete that review and submit findings to me by November 1, 2014.
Finally, I have also determined that scrutiny by a distinguished panel of independent experts of the September 19 incident and related issues concerning the Secret Service is warranted. The Panelists will be named shortly. By December 15, 2014, this panel will submit to me its own assessment and recommendations concerning security of the White House compound. I will also invite the panel to submit to me recommendations for potential new directors of the Secret Service, to include recommendations of individuals who come from outside the Secret Service. 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. The security of the White House compound should be the panel’s primary and immediate priority.
It is worth repeating that the Secret Service is one of the finest official protection services in the world, consisting of men and women who are highly trained and skilled professionals prepared to put their own lives on the line in a second’s notice for the people they protect. Last week, the Secret Service was responsible for the protection of the President as well as 140 visiting heads of state or government as they convened at the United Nations General Assembly in New York City. Likewise, in August the Secret Service handled the protection of 60 world leaders as they convened in Washington, D.C. for the African Summit. As usual, the Secret Service executed these highly complex and demanding assignments without incident. There is no other protection service in the world that could have done this.
This post has been updated.
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