Secret Service Director Resigns

An inevitable outcome for the head of a once proud agency.

Obama With Secret Service

In the wake of a series of revelations about serious security breaches that culminated with yesterday’s news that an armed man with a criminal record had shared an elevator with the President during a visit to Atlanta, the Director of the Secret Service has resigned:

WASHINGTON — Julia Pierson, the director of the Secret Service, is resigning in the wake of several security breaches, according to administration officials.

The resignation came less than a day after lawmakers from both parties assailed Ms. Pierson’s leadership and said they feared for the lives of the president and others in the protection of the agency.

A 30-year veteran of the Secret Service, Ms. Pierson was supposed to have been the one to repair the agency’s reputation after scandals that raised questions about a culture that gave rise to incidents involving drinking and prostitution during overseas trips.

But her tenure has been rocked by more serious allegations that her agents and officers have not been performing their primary job competently. Under intense questioning on Capitol Hill on Tuesday, Ms. Pierson admitted that those charged with securing the White House failed to follow numerous security protocols, allowing a man armedwith a knife to penetrate deep inside the mansion.

And late Tuesday, the agency acknowledged that just days before the White House breach, an armed man was allowed to ride in an elevator with the president during an event at the Centers for Disease Control in Atlanta.

After yesterday’s hearing before the Government Oversight Committee, in which Pierson was questioned sharply by members on both sides of the aisle who were clearly upset both with the security breaches themselves and with the agency’s transparency about the events that have been made public, it became clear that Pierson’s days in office were likely numbered. The final nail in the coffin may have come this morning when the ranking Democrat on the Committee, Elijah Cummings of Maryland, who said that he was no longer comfortable with Pierson as the head of the Secret Service based on what has come out about the security breaches. If nothing else that was a sign that Democrats on Capitol Hill would end up being as vocal as Republicans about the need for change at an agency that has obviously lost its way.

As with the resignation of the Secretary of Veterans Affairs earlier this year, this change at the top, while necessary, is only the tip of the iceberg in terms of what needs to be done to address the problems at the agency. Beyond this, there need to be further investigations, both public and classified, about what may have gone wrong at an agency that was once known as the best security force in the world. Among the issues that should be examined are the question of what role, if any, budgetary issues may have played in the current state of the Secret Service, which is an argument that some raised at yesterday’s hearing. In that regard, The Washington Post notes that Congress actually has ended up funding the agency at a higher level than was requested by the White House in the years since sequestration went into effect. At the same time, though, and for reasons that aren’t entirely clear, there has been an overall decline in the number of people employed by the Secret Service, although it’s not at all clear that these personnel cuts had any impact at all on the Presidential Protective Detail or the uniformed and plain clothes officers assigned to protect the White House. Additionally, it may also be time a good time to reexamine the decision to roll the Secret Service into the Department of Homeland Security when that agency was established. According to some accounts, the culture change that occurred when the agency was separated from its long-standing home at the Treasury Department may have had a bigger impact on the culture of the agency than anticipated. Whatever the answers may be, it’s worth noting that this seems to be one issue on which both sides on Capitol Hill are united, and that at least is something refreshing if only because you don’t see it very often.

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FILED UNDER: Barack Obama, National Security, Politicians, US Politics
Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug holds a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010. Before joining OTB, he wrote at Below The BeltwayThe Liberty Papers, and United Liberty Follow Doug on Twitter | Facebook

Comments

  1. michael reynolds says:

    Well, there you go: she did one thing right.

  2. al-Ameda says:

    The final nail in the coffin may have come this morning when the ranking Democrat on the Committee, Elijah Cummings of Maryland, who said that he was no longer comfortable with Pierson as the head of the Secret Service based on what has come out about the security breaches. If nothing else that was a sign that Democrats on Capitol Hill would end up being as vocal as Republicans about the need for change at an agency that has obviously lost its way.

    This is not – or should not be – a partisan issue. The safety of ANY president and his/her family, and his/her staff – especially in the White House – is of the utmost importance to all Americans. What recently transpired is unacceptable on all counts.

    I’m pleased that Pierson resigned, I could see no other way.

  3. @michael reynolds:

    I’m guessing it wasn’t completely voluntary

  4. C. Clavin says:

    I don’t Obama should appoint a new Director until Obama answers some more questions about Benghazi.

  5. C. Clavin says:

    @Doug Mataconis:
    Oh no…she wasn’t worried about the fvck-ups…she just wants to spend more time with her family.

  6. Jack says:

    WOW! Someone in the Obama administration actually taking responsibility for one of the many enormous cluster f^&*s that has occurred over the last 6 years.

    Meanwhile, I’m sure hard drives are crashing at the Secret Service as we speak.

    On a side note,

    Among the issues that should be examined are the question of what role, if any, budgetary issues may have played in the current state of the Secret Service, which is an argument that some raised at yesterday’s hearing.

    I’m sure budgetary issues–read sequestration, was behind all the Secret Service agents going to strip clubs and getting drunk under Pierson’s watch.

  7. Jenos Idanian #13 says:

    She had 18 months to fix things. Things got worse.

    She’s being replaced (at least temporarily) is a guy who headed up the presidential protective detail and who retired in 2011. He needs to come in hard and swinging.

    A good message would be to reassign (or fire) the Agent who was overpowered by the last intruder, and a promotion/commendation for the off-duty guy who did tackle that idiot. That would send a clear message about what is to be expected, and what will not be accepted.

  8. PD Shaw says:

    @Jack: “all the Secret Service agents going to strip clubs and getting drunk under Pierson’s watch.”

    I’m pretty sure that was before her watch. She was the mother figure promoted when the last group looked like a bunch of horny teenagers.

  9. Guarneri says:

    In her resignation statement she apparently thinks the media did her in. Me? To avoid charges of a War on Women I’m thinkin’ they need to interview Kathleen Sibelius and Lois Lerner. I hear they are looking for work and, except for some obscure IT related issues, both have sparkling records of government service.

  10. DonVito says:

    @Guarneri:

    They only start the War on Women crap when they are trailing in the polls and need to shake down some big donors. In some ways, I do respect the way the Dems play this issue and how effective it has been.

  11. al-Ameda says:

    @Guarneri:

    To avoid charges of a War on Women I’m thinkin’ they need to interview Kathleen Sibelius and Lois Lerner.

    Actually, all they need to do is to talk to Sandra Fluke.

  12. C. Clavin says:

    @Jack:
    That wasn’t on her watch.
    If you don’t understand the issues why…oh, never mind.

  13. Guarneri says:

    Sandra Fluke? I don’t think so. Word on the street is that when they saw the long line formed in front of her apartment they figured she was too busy.

  14. al-Ameda says:

    @Guarneri:

    Sandra Fluke? I don’t think so. Word on the street is that when they saw the long line formed in front of her apartment they figured she was too busy.

    Oh, as your comment indicates, Sandra can confidently assure Pierson and Sibelius that the Republican War on Women is real.

  15. al-Ameda says:

    @DonVito:

    They only start the War on Women crap when they are trailing in the polls and need to shake down some big donors. In some ways, I do respect the way the Dems play this issue and how effective it has been.

    Todd Akin agrees

  16. michael reynolds says:

    @Doug Mataconis:

    Well, she was able to correctly interpret the line, “So, you must miss home a lot.”

  17. DonVito says:

    @al-Ameda:

    Nice reply. This is exactly what I’m taking about. You take a Tea Party candidate who I agree said offensive remarks about women and the Whole GOP is now in a war against women?. Stop with the nonsense already as this is nothing but political rhetoric. I know its easy to label all of us as
    misogynists, but i know you can do better than throwing Todd Akin out there.

  18. michael reynolds says:

    @Guarneri:

    Wow. Yuck. You’ve added ‘creep’ to your resume.

  19. Peter says:

    Nothing personal against Obama, but a president’s safety really isn’t important. There is a clearly set out system for succession and continuity of government. An assassination would have very little impact on the lives of 99.99% of the population.

  20. Janis Gore says:

    @michael reynolds: He doesn’t even think that way. What’s got into him?

  21. al-Ameda says:

    @DonVito:

    This is exactly what I’m taking about. You take a Tea Party candidate who I agree said offensive remarks about women and the Whole GOP is now in a war against women?.

    I get your point Don, however …
    Admittedly Akin is almost a parody of that stereotype.

    However, the fact is that Akin is an evangelical, and his views are consonant with those of a very important segment of the Republican Party base, so it is not unreasonable to cite Akin and his view of what happens when a woman is raped, or his extremely narrow views on what rights women have with respect to reproduction and contraception.

    Rush Limbaugh’s attacks on Sandra Fluke were more than just an attack on insurance coverage for women’s contraception, they were old stereotypical attacks on women who have a sex life (aka ‘sluts.’). And Limbaugh is not just another Republican – he is arguably, the most successful and influential conservative media figure in America today – and this has been the case for many years now.

    There is a strong reason why women in the younger demographic are overwhelmingly Democratic, and why nearly half of older women are Democrats too. It has everything to do with, yes, a perceived hostility of the Republican male establishment toward women, and reproductive rights happens to be the flashpoint.

    The ‘War on Women” is a not made up, it is not figment of imagination, Republicans have painted themselves into a corner on this subject and it is up to younger non-evangelical Republicans to find a way out of this problem because I don’t see evangelical Republicans changing their views on this any time soon.

  22. al-Ameda says:

    @Peter:

    Nothing personal against Obama, but a president’s safety really isn’t important. There is a clearly set out system for succession and continuity of government. An assassination would have very little impact on the lives of 99.99% of the population.

    Exactly, JFK’s assassination didn’t register at all with the American people.

  23. Peter says:

    @al-Ameda:
    I’m not talking about cultural or emotional resonance, but about the effects on the day to day functioning of government and especially about the effects on people’s daily lives. An assassination isn’t likely to have many such effects.

  24. PD Shaw says:

    @Peter: Sometimes the Vice-President sucks eggs.

  25. superdestroyer says:

    The New York Times reported that the private security guard had three arrest but no conviction and the last arrest was in 1996. http://www.nytimes.com/2014/10/01/us/armed-man-boarded-elevator-with-obama-official-reports.html?_r=0

    An arrest without a conviction cannot be used to deny someone a sensitive job or position. I suspect that the Washington Post writer got confused between arrest and felony conviction.

    However, the president still got into an Elevator with someone who had a loaded weapon and was not clear to have it. Did the Secret Service forward teams not ask about armed security?

    It also appears that the director of the Secret Service is an SES position and not a political position. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Director_of_the_United_States_Secret_Service

  26. al-Ameda says:

    @Peter:

    I’m not talking about cultural or emotional resonance, but about the effects on the day to day functioning of government and especially about the effects on people’s daily lives. An assassination isn’t likely to have many such effects.

    I tend to disagree because an assassination is a major shock to our body politic. A side effect may be a major loss of confidence in government, although to be fair, it’s hard to imagine it being lower than it is today. Sure, life goes on, but not as it did prior to the assassination.

  27. Janis Gore says:

    @al-Ameda: It would certainly arrest people’s attention for a good long while.

    Think the Superbowl for about three months.

  28. wr says:

    @Guarneri: “Sandra Fluke? I don’t think so. Word on the street is that when they saw the long line formed in front of her apartment they figured she was too busy”

    Fascinating that the very people who ridicule the idea of the Republican war on women are the same ones who post elaborate sexual fantasies about any woman wh dares express a political thought that doesn’t match their own.

  29. wr says:

    @DonVito: “I know its easy to label all of us as
    misogynists, but i know you can do better than throwing Todd Akin out there.”

    Well, how about we throw “Guarneri,” your very own brother on this blog, out there.

  30. DonVito says:

    @al-Ameda:

    I’m not arguing that the GOP has had a problem with women voters in recent years and its a real hurdle they need to overcome if they want to ever win a presidential election. As for the war on women, its an issue that has been amplified every time a Democratic candidate needs a boost. I know there are clowns like Limbaugh and other extremists who may actually have contempt and work against women, but this is not reflective of the party as a whole. There will always be morons on both sides of the aisle who say offensive things and work actively against the private interests of certain people, but its wrong to paint millions of Americans as hateful towards women.

    To borrow a quote from Bill Maher, This is a War on Women

    “We hear a lot about the Republican ‘war on women.’ It’s not cool Rush Limbaugh called somebody a slut. Okay,” said Maher. “But Saudi women can’t vote, or drive, or hold a job or leave the house without a man. Overwhelming majorities in every Muslim country say a wife is always obliged to obey her husband. That all seems like a bigger issue than evangelical Christian bakeries refusing to make gay wedding cakes.”

  31. anjin-san says:

    @DonVito:

    There will always be morons on both sides of the aisle who say offensive things and work actively against the private interests of certain people

    Both sides do it? I don’t think so. Thanks for playing.

  32. Janis Gore says:

    @DonVito: I wish to hell all you millions would lift your voices and quit cowering behind these offensive men and women then.

    I’d damned sure like some choice in my elections.

  33. michael reynolds says:

    @Janis Gore:
    I think he thinks he’s funny.

  34. Peter says:

    @Janis Gore:

    I do acknowledge that a presidential assassination would have some adverse short-term economic effects, with business falling off at retailers, restaurants, entertainment venues, and so on. These would be temporary, however, and I don’t believe they justify shielding the president behind what’s equivalent to a military battalion. It’s like he’s some Third World megalomaniac despot:
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jlqbd-virQU

  35. PT says:

    @DonVito:

    its a real hurdle they need to overcome if they want to ever win a presidential election.

    Because the problem isn’t the racism and misogyny and whatnot – that all good. The problem is convincing everyone its not in order to win elections.

    but this is not reflective of the party as a whole.

    There was a time I believed that myself.

  36. Just 'nutha' ig'rant cracker says:

    @Janis Gore: He doesn’t even think that way.

    FIFY

  37. Just 'nutha' ig'rant cracker says:

    @DonVito: You remind me of my mom. When I submit to the pre-election grilling about what the liberals have done to destroy the country, I suggest that the conservative movement has its own problems by outlining the ridiculous things that even I can hear on Rush and Fox and others (you really are bucking against the tide, you know) she also responds

    I know there are clowns like Limbaugh and other extremists who may actually have contempt [and work against women or fill in the blank], but this is not reflective of the party as a whole.

    She goes on to note that she never even watches things with political content, so that if she knew what these people were saying, she would certainly never go along with things like that.

    The last speech is right before she asks “did you realize [insert latest Fox News talking point here]?”

    Her excuse is that she’s 87 and starting to have memory issues. What’s yours?

  38. Guarneri says:

    What are you guys talking about? I meant lining up to hear her valuable insights on health care issues.

    You guys owe her an apology for thinking that way.

  39. wr says:

    @DonVito: So you’re saying we shouldn’t care about serious problems in our country as long as we can find one where things are worse? What a fine plan!

  40. Guarneri says:

    Time to go study. I’ve just learned from the intellectually superior species – liberals – that global warming actually spawned ISIS.

    Plastic bags, big cars. Next thing you know they are slicing peoples heads off. Who knew?

  41. Andre Kenji says:

    There is a reason why the Kennedy assassination is such a popular plot among Alternativa Hustory writers.

  42. Dave D says:

    @DonVito:

    “We hear a lot about the Republican ‘war on women.’ It’s not cool Rush Limbaugh called somebody a slut. Okay,” said Maher. “But Saudi women can’t vote, or drive, or hold a job or leave the house without a man. Overwhelming majorities in every Muslim country say a wife is always obliged to obey her husband. That all seems like a bigger issue than evangelical Christian bakeries refusing to make gay wedding cakes.”

    And this somehow justifies the animosity of on some of the right to autonomous women how? Is the American left somehow keeping those Saudi women down? I believe that America can and should be a beacon to the rest of the world on equality. That cannot happen when a large segment with political power uses said power to keep equality from happening. What is wrong about your line of reasoning even in just between the two of you is trying to link one senior female government member resigning to other females who have resigned. In the Holder resignation post there were no comparisons of him to other men in the government that have resigned. But ladies in the government must all be the same, and while we’re at it let’s somehow bring in a female who testified in front of congress because since they all have ovaries they’re all the same. It is how dense the right is about things like this that upsets people, mainly young people. If you see no problem bringing Fluke or Lerner or Sibelius in a discussion that doesn’t hinge upon them at all you just don’t get it. Besides a lack of a Y chromosome none of them have anything to tie them to Pierson. And if you want to bring up women resigning under this POTUS none of them are germane to the discussion of security failures of the secret service.

  43. rodney dill says:

    @Peter: Yea, Kennedy was hardly a blip in our country’s collective experience, doh.

  44. rodney dill says:

    @al-Ameda: …hadn’t gotten to your response to Peter yet.

  45. Just Me says:

    I figure she was politely asked to resign rather than officially getting canned.

    The agency clearly has some issues and it may be best dealt with if they replace some people at the top.

    Allowing somebody on an elevator with the president while armed and being unaware that this person was armed is not a minor mistake.

  46. Janis Gore says:

    @rodney dill: MLK hardly counted either, did he, Mr. Dill?

  47. C. Clavin says:

    @Dave D:
    I think he’s right. Not all Republucans hate women. Or even blacks, or gay people. It’s only the people they elect to office and the people they choose to watch on tv and the people who run the websites they read.
    End snark.
    Actions speak louder than words. If Republicans don’t want to be seen as misogynists and xenophobes then they simply need to stop acting like misogynists and xenophobes.

  48. rodney dill says:

    @Janis Gore: I was being sarcastic, and MLK would’ve worked equally well for that point. (other than he wasn’t an assassinated President)

  49. Janis Gore says:

    @rodney dill: I was meeting your tone, sir.

    Them was some tumultuous years, yessirree.

    (These online bar conversations…so easy to be misunderstood.)

  50. gVOR08 says:

    @Peter: People can and do make a case that Vietnam would have turned out differently had Kennedy served out his term. And as long as we’re into alternate history hypotheticals, contemplate President Palin.

    Speaking of Palin and the like, Charlie Pierce is highly critical of Democrats

    The great failing of the Democratic party over the past three-and-a-half decades has been the party’s failure to take political advantage of the obvious prion disease that has afflicted the Republican party since it first ate all the monkey-brains in the mid-1970’s. Whether this was out of cowardice, incompetence, or an overly optimistic view of the inherent sanity of the electorate, is no longer an issue. The failure to make the Republican crazee the Republican party’s standing public identity has encouraged the increased spread, and the increased virulence of the prion disease, with disastrous consequences for the rest of us. Why, in the name of god, would you not call Michele Bachmann crazy? Because it might offend the people who vote for her? It’s supposed to offend those people. Those people beg to be offended, and, by doing so, you at least inject into the discussion the notion that the Republican party has thrown its marbles gleefully to the four winds.

  51. gVOR08 says:

    @Jenos Idanian #13: Via Anne Laurie at Balloon Juice , Bryce Covert of TNR points out that this has a name

    Time and again, women are put in charge only when there’s a mess, and if they can’t engineer a quick cleanup, they’re shoved out the door. The academics Michelle Ryan and Alex Haslam even coined a term for this phenomenon: They call it getting pushed over the glass cliff.

    Laurie adds

    Back in 2008, when random cab drivers or grocery clerks made vulgar comments about the Democratic primary choices (ask Cole about the trapper joke!), I’d “joke” right back about how once a rich white frat kid like Dubya had completely fubar’d his latest residence, it was always a woman or a not-white man who got called in to clean up the mess. You’d be surprised how many people agreed with that reasoning…

  52. al-Ameda says:

    @DonVito:

    “We hear a lot about the Republican ‘war on women.’ It’s not cool Rush Limbaugh called somebody a slut. Okay,” said Maher. “But Saudi women can’t vote, or drive, or hold a job or leave the house without a man. Overwhelming majorities in every Muslim country say a wife is always obliged to obey her husband. That all seems like a bigger issue than evangelical Christian bakeries refusing to make gay wedding cakes.”

    Bill’s right, however, 2 things can be equally true: (1) the treatment of many women in many of the countries of the Middle East is terrible, and (2) Republicans have a political problem with women of their (the GOP’s) own making. I personally wouldn’t conflate the two, however I’m not surprised the Republicans would want to be let off the hook on this.

  53. superdestroyer says:

    @Just Me:

    Government officials at that level prepare a resignation letter when they start the job. All their boss (the president has to do is pull it out and date it). It is a reminder to the highest level of appointees that they can be canned in a second with little procedural effort.

  54. gVOR08 says:

    @al-Ameda: There’s also an issue of immediacy and responsibility. As a voter in a democracy I have some responsibility for preventing Republicans from making life hard for young women in the United States. I am not responsible for what happens in Saudi Arabia.

  55. steve q says:

    Another example of the Glass Cliff: Once shit’s totally out of control, appoint a woman and make her take the fall.

  56. Eric Florack says:

    @gVOR08: Look, I mean seriously, now…. weve got that magnificant moron Joe Biden as a gunshot away from the presidency. Weve got another mental midget, John Kerry and before him Hillary Clinton. Holder as AG. given this list of epic failures, (which just barely scratches the surface of their collective imcompetance…) anyone *really* expect his appointment to head the SS to perform any better?

  57. Grewgills says:

    @Eric Florack:
    You really should take a long look in the mirror before you comment on the mental capacities of any of the people you mentioned, or for that matter before you comment on anyone else’s partisanship.

  58. Eric Florack says:

    @Grewgills: I have done so.

    My comment stands.

  59. Grewgills says:

    @Eric Florack:
    To single out one, Kerry assembled a diverse coalition of our allies including regional powers to actively combat IS in a very short period of time. That is not something that a ‘mental midget’ accomplishes. What have you accomplished that approaches even 1/10th of that level of difficulty?