WASHINGTON (CBSNewYork) — Secret Service Director Julia Pierson stepped down Wednesday, in the wake of several security breaches affecting the White House and President Barack Obama.
Department of Homeland Security Director Jeh Johnson announced Pierson’s resignation in a statement Wednesday afternoon, CBS News reported.
“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,” Johnson said in the statement.
U.S. Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) said a change in leadership at the Secret Service was the right move.
“The administration did the right thing by moving quickly and decisively to bring new leadership to the Secret Service and by starting a thorough and independent investigation. The series of breaches has been serious and hard to explain,” Schumer said in a statement. “They need to get to the bottom of it quickly and fortunately, this process has now begun.”
As CBS 2 Political Reporter Marcia Kramer reported, Pierson was subjected to blistering bipartisan criticism when she appeared before Congress on Tuesday. The only unanswered question at that point was how long she would remain in her post.
On Tuesday, Pierson explained the White House security breaches with the statement, “It’s clear our security plan was not properly executed.”
But to members of Congress – Republicans and Democrats alike, the statement sounded more like, “the dog ate my homework,” Kramer reported.
“I’ve listened to your testimony very deliberately,” said U.S. Rep. Stephen Lynch (D-Mass.) “And I wish to God you protected the White House the way you’re protecting your reputation here.”
“In this day and age of ISIL, and terrorists, and IEDs, and dirty bombs, we don’t know what’s going on underneath that person’s clothing,” said U.S. Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah.) “If they want to penetrate that, they need to know that they are going to perhaps be killed. That’s the message we should be sending.”
And when Pierson offered her resignation Wednesday, Homeland Security Secretary Johnson accepted it immediately.
“Over the last several days, we’ve seen recent and accumulating reports raising questions about the performance of the agency,” said White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest. “And the president concluded that new leadership of that agency was required.”
Pierson was on the hot seat for a number of security lapses. The most recent was on Sept. 19, when Omar Gonzalez, armed with a knife, raced unobstructed 70 yards across the White House North Lawn. He brushed by a Secret Service officer who had a drawn gun and entered the mansion.
Sources said Gonzalez then ran more than 30 feet through the Entrance Hall to the Cross Hall, right past the staircase leading up to the First Family’s residence.
He confronted a female Secret Service agent and overpowered her, and ran about another 100 feet through the Cross Hall And into the East Room, where he was ultimately brought down at the door to the Green Room, sources said.
“The whole procedure was a scandal right there,” said investigative journalist Ron Kessler, who wrote the book, “In the President’s Secret Service.”
Kessler, who has written extensively about the secret service, said agents are rewarded for covering up mistakes.
“This is a problem from the top,” Kessler said. “Julia Pierson has only made the culture worse, and these agents are just responding to this corrupt culture.
In addressing Congress about the incident, Pierson said Tuesday, “This is unacceptable, and I take full responsibility, and I will make sure that it does not happen again.”
But members of Congress on Tuesday said that was not enough.
“Why didn’t security dogs stop him in his tracks? What about the SWAT team and assaults rifle — or sniper rifles? Why was there no guard stationed at the front door of the White House?” said Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) “And yes, how much would it cost to lock the front door of the White House?
Pierson will be replaced by Joseph Clancy, a former special agent in charge of the president’s detail, who retired in 2011. He had been with the agency for 30 years.
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