Secret Service Director Resigns Following Congressional Testimony
Julia A. Pierson, the director of the Secret Service, resigned her post on Wednesday, a day after her testimony before a House Oversight and Government Reform Committee about a security breach where an armed man entered the White House.
In her testimony, Pierson said that another security lapse would “never happen again,” and that her agency was conducting a review of its security protocols. She also said, “It’s clear that our security plan was not properly executed. This is unacceptable, and I take full responsibility.” The rest of the briefing was classified, but afterwards many Members of Congress from both parties expressed their dissatisfaction with the leadership of the Secret Service. Representative Jason Chaffetz of Utah said, “I can say that the agency overall has a leadership problem. We’re getting to the point that the president is going to have to make some dramatic changes.” Committee Chairman Darrel Issa of California likewise said, “This failure has once again tested the trust of the American people in the Secret Service – a trust already strained by a string of recent scandals.”
On Monday, The Washington Post reported that an alarm box near the front entrance, designed to give the Secret Service time to lock the doors before potential intruders can enter the building, was muted. As such, the officers on guard were surprised by the intruder, Omar Gonzalez, who managed to overpower an agent after entering through the doors and run past the stairway leading towards the President’s residential quarters into the East Room. An agent tackled him at the doorway to the Green Room.
In addition to the White House security breach, CNN reported that, on September 16, a private security contractor carrying a gun shared an elevator with the President at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta. In her testimony before Congress, Pierson said that she briefs the President any time there is a breach of security concerning him or his family, and that the Gonzalez incident was the only time she had to do so in 2014. When asked about the omission, Secret Service spokesman Ed Donovan told CNN, “We aren’t going to discuss private conversations the director may have with the president.”
Following the testimony, Republicans and Democrats both began calling for Pierson’s resignation on Wednesday. Representative Doug Collins of Georgia, a Republican on the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, said, “I’m not sure her ability to lead this department is effective anymore. It is probably best that she does step down.” He based that conclusion Pierson’s testimony as well as the details of the incident in Atlanta, asking, “How can the director of the Secret Service approve a statement that was a lie?” He was joined by Representative Elijah Cummings of Maryland, the ranking Democrat on the Committee, who said, “I’ve come to the conclusion that my confidence and my trust in this director, Ms. Pierson, has eroded. And I do not feel comfortable with her in that position.” He then added, “I think this lady has to go.”
Speaker of the House John Boehner of Ohio and Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi of California have both called for an independent investigation of the Secret Service. Speaker Boehner said that the Secret Service “is beset by a culture of complacency and incompetence”, and that the President must quickly decide if the agency “is being well-served by its current leadership.” Leader Pelosi similarly called the recent incidents “inexcusable”, and issued support for Director Pierson’s resignation, saying, “If Mr. Cummings thinks she should go, I subscribe to his recommendation.”
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