Secret Service chief quits due to security lapses

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Secret Service Director Resigns Amid Security Breaches

WASHINGTON (AP) -- Secret Service Director Julia Pierson abruptly resigned Wednesday in the face of multiple revelations of security breaches, bumbling in her agency and rapidly eroding confidence that the president and his family were being kept safe.

President Barack Obama "concluded new leadership of that agency was required," said spokesman Josh Earnest.

High-ranking lawmakers from both parties had urged her to step down after her poorly received testimony to Congress a day earlier - and revelation of yet another security problem: Obama had shared an elevator in Atlanta last month with an armed guard who was not authorized to be around him.

That appeared to be the last straw that crumbled trust in her leadership in the White House. Earnest said Obama and his staff did not learn about that breach until just before it was made public in news reports Tuesday.

"Today Julia Pierson, the director of the United States Secret Service, offered her resignation, and I accepted it," Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson said in a statement. He announced that Joseph Clancy, retired head of the agency's Presidential Protective Division, would come out of retirement to lead the Secret Service temporarily.

Taking further steps to restore trust in the beleaguered agency, Johnson also outlined an independent inquiry into the agency's operations.

That trust was shaken by a series of failures in the agency's critical job of protecting the president, including a breach Sept. 19, when a knife-carrying man climbed over the White House fence on Pennsylvania Avenue and made it deep into the executive mansion before being stopped.

Republicans quickly served notice that Pierson's resignation and the inquiry ordered by Johnson would not end their investigation.

"The Oversight Committee will continue to examine clear and serious agency failures at the Secret Service," said the panel's chairman, Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Calif. "Problems at the Secret Service pre-date Ms. Pierson's tenure as director, and her resignation certainly does not resolve them."

Pierson's permanent replacement will probably face a grueling confirmation process before Congress.

In an interview with Bloomberg News after her resignation was announced, Pierson said she recognized that "Congress has lost confidence in my ability to run the agency."

She said she met Johnson on Wednesday and "after that discussion I felt this was the noble thing to do."

Rep. Jason Chaffetz, R-Utah, a leader of the congressional inquiry, called her resignation "the right thing to do, it had to happen, but there are some systemic challenges that must be addressed."

Some revelations came from whistleblowers who contacted Chaffetz, and he suggested more damaging stories may emerge. "Unfortunately there are more out there and we'll see how that goes," he said.

After a congressional hearing Tuesday into the Sept. 19 breach and an earlier one, reports emerged of still another. Earlier in September, Obama had shared an elevator in Atlanta with a private guard who was not authorized to be around him with a gun. That was the first known Secret Service failure to unfold in the presence of the president. The first family was not at the White House when the recent intruder entered.

The White House learned about the Atlanta episode only about when lawmakers and the public did - when the Washington Examiner and The Washington Post reported it, Earnest said.

Obama had not been told about it previously, Earnest said. This, despite Pierson's statement to the committee that she briefs the president "100 percent of the time" about threats to his personal security and those at the White House. She said the only time she had briefed him this year was after the Sept. 19 White House intrusion.

The man accused of running into the White House on Sept. 19, Omar J. Gonzalez, pleaded not guilty Wednesday in a brief appearance in federal court. He is accused of unlawfully entering a restricted building while carrying a deadly weapon, which is a federal charge, and two violations of District of Columbia law.

Wearing a standard prison-issue orange jump suit, Gonzalez sat attentively at the defense table but did not address the court as his lawyer entered the plea.

As for Pierson, support for the Secret Service director unraveled quickly after her defensive testimony Tuesday, which left key questions unanswered.

Democratic Rep. Elijah Cummings, top Democrat on the committee, said in multiple interviews Wednesday that Pierson was no longer the best person to lead the Secret Service.

She is the latest administration official to leave in the midst of controversy. Others include:

- Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki resigned last May, taking the blame for what he decried as a "lack of integrity" in the sprawling health care system for the nation's military veterans.

- Kathleen Sebelius, secretary of health and human services as the "Obamacare" insurance marketplace failed spectacularly in its launch, stayed on to oversee repairs before Obama accepted her resignation months later.

---

Associated Press writers Erica Werner, Josh Lederman and Calvin Woodward contributed.

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Secret Service chief quits due to security lapses
This handout photo provided by the US Secret Service shows the drone that crashed onto the White House grounds in Washington, Monday, Jan. 26, 2015. A small drone flying low to the ground crashed onto the White House grounds before dawn Monday, triggering a major emergency response and raising fresh questions about security at the presidential mansion. A man later came forward to say he was responsible and didn't mean to fly it over the complex. The man contacted the Secret Service after reports of the crash spread in the media, a U.S. official said. The man told the agency that he had been flying the drone recreationally. The man is a Washington resident and is cooperating with investigators. (AP Photo/US Secret Service)
An unidentified electronic device, which could be a small drone, landed on the grounds of the White House overnight. Security teams could be seen on the north lawn shining flashlights. "There is a device that has been recovered by the Secret Service on the grounds of the White House." Josh Earnest told reporters traveling with President Obama in India on Monday that the Secret Service is investigating, but there was no immediate danger from the incident.
drone found on grounds of White House has been recovered by Secret Service, confirms @PressSec but does not appear to pose a threat, he says
JUST IN: White House on lockdown, after Secret Service found a "device" on the grounds. President and First Lady are both away in India.
The Secret Service says an agent heard and saw a small drone flying low to the ground around 3 a.m. before crashing on the White House grounds.
A Belgian Malinois dog, part of the Secret Service’s K-9 unit used for security at the White House, stands with members of the Secret Service on the North Lawn of the White House Friday, Oct. 24, 2014, in Washington. Jordan, 5, a black and tan Belgian Malinois, and Hurricane, 6, a black Belgian Malinois, helped to stop a fence jumping intruder at the White House on Wednesday night. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)
A Secret Service police officer stands at his post outside the White House fence in Washington, Thursday, Oct. 23, 2014. A 23-year old Maryland man who climbed the White House fence Wednesday has been charged with felonies for assaulting two police dogs and making threats, the Secret Service said Thursday. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)
A Belgian Malinois dog, part of the Secret Service’s K-9 unit used for security at the White House, playfully greets a member of the Secret Service police on the North Lawn of the White House Friday, Oct. 24, 2014, in Washington. Jordan, 5, a black and tan Belgian Malinois, and Hurricane, 6, a black Belgian Malinois, helped to stop a fence jumping intruder at the White House on Wednesday night. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)
WASHINGTON, DC - OCTOBER 23: Members of the US Secret Service are stationed on the front lawn of White House October 23, 2014 in Washington, DC. Last evening Dominic Adesanya, 23, of Bel Air, Maryland jumped over the two layers of security fence and onto the north lawn of the White House before he was subdued as he fought two police dogs. (Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images)
A US Secret Service agent is bundled up against the snow as anti-abortion activists gather for a prayer outside the White House in Washington,DC on January 21, 2015. AFP PHOTO/NICHOLAS KAMM (Photo credit should read NICHOLAS KAMM/AFP/Getty Images)
A US Secret Service Uniformed Division officer stands between the temporary barricade and the fence line of the White House in Washington, DC, October 23, 2014. A suspect who climbed over the White House fence on October 22 was nabbed by Secret Service agents and dogs, a spokesman for the elite agency said. 'At approximately 7:16 pm (1116 GMT), an individual climbed the north fence line of the White House,' the spokesman said. 'The individual was immediately taken into custody on the north lawn of the White House by Secret Service Uniformed Division K-9 teams and Uniformed Division Officers.' The fence climber was identified as 23-year-old Dominic Adesanya from Marlyand, near the US capital, the spokesman said. AFP PHOTO/JIM WATSON (Photo credit should read JIM WATSON/AFP/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - NOVEMBER 19: Joseph Clancy, acting director of the United States Secret Service, is sworn in at the start of a House Judiciary Committee Hearing entitled 'Oversight of the United States Secret Service,' on Capitol Hill, November 19, 2014 in Washington, DC. Clancy, who became acting director of the Secret Service last month, told lawmakers that the agency has 'fallen short' of its goals in the midst of recent security lapses. (Drew Angerer/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - NOVEMBER 19: Joseph Clancy, acting director of the United States Secret Service, takes his seat prior to the start of a House Judiciary Committee Hearing entitled 'Oversight of the United States Secret Service,' on Capitol Hill, November 19, 2014 in Washington, DC. Clancy, who became acting director of the Secret Service last month, told lawmakers that the agency has 'fallen short' of its goals in the midst of recent security lapses. (Drew Angerer/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - NOVEMBER 19: Joseph Clancy, acting director of the United States Secret Service, takes his seat prior to the start of a House Judiciary Committee Hearing entitled 'Oversight of the United States Secret Service,' on Capitol Hill, November 19, 2014 in Washington, DC. Clancy, who became acting director of the Secret Service last month, told lawmakers that the agency has 'fallen short' of its goals in the midst of recent security lapses. (Drew Angerer/Getty Images)
A Secret Service police officer holds a weapon as he stands near an entrance to the White House complex during an evacuation minutes after President Barack Obama departed Washington for Camp David aboard Marine One on Friday, Sept. 19, 2014. A Secret Service agent at the scene says someone jumped the fence surrounding the White House. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)
Uniformed Secret Service officers walk along the lawn on the North side of the White House in Washington, Saturday, Sept. 20, 2014. The Secret Service is coming under renewed scrutiny after a man scaled the White House fence and made it all the way through the front door before he was apprehended. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)
A member of the U.S. Secret Service Emergency Response Team (ERT) stands watch on the North Lawn at the White House in Washington, Thursday, Aug. 7, 2014. It’s usually someone jumping over the White House fence that causes Secret Service agents patrolling the grounds to scramble. A toddler passing through slats in the gate caught the eyes of the gun-toting officers who are charged with protecting the president. (AP Photo/Charles Dharapak)
Avast! Secret Service head in hot seat after ... #FoxNews #OmarGonzalez #SecretService http://t.co/dotMJV1Wgf http://t.co/NCqKAzWA7d
WASHINGTON, DC - OCTOBER 01: U.S. Marshals and officers from the Federal Protection Police guard the outside of The United States District Court for the District of Columbia October 1, 2014 in Washington, DC. Accused White House intruder Omar Gonzalez is scheduled to appear in U.S. District Court for a detention and preliminary hearing. On September19, Gonzalez jumped the White House fence and, armed with a knife, unlawfully entered and ran through the Executive Mansion before being eventually being subdued. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)
This Oct. 1, 2014, courtroom artist rendering shows U.S. Magistrate Judge Deborah Robinson, left, presiding during Omar J. Gonzalez's , center, case in court in Washington. Gonzalez, the man accused of jumping a White House fence and running into the presidential mansion while carrying a knife now faces a new weapons charge. A federal grand jury returned the charge of possession of illegal ammunition magazines against Gonzalez in an updated indictment Thursday, Oct. 16. Gun magazines that hold more than 10 rounds were recovered from Gonzalez’s car after his arrest. Such magazines are illegal under District of Columbia law. (AP Photo/Dana Verkouteren)
An officer with the Uniform Division of the U.S. Secret Service walks in a closed Lafayette Square in front of the White House after a man jumped the White House fence, Sunday, March 30, 2014 in Washington. A guard dog brought the man down and he was arrested. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)
Diane Wilson, left, wearing an orange jumpsuit, is checked by a Uniformed Division Secret Service officer on the north grounds of the White House in Washington, Wednesday, June 26, 2013. The US Secret Service said that Wilson jumped north fence of White House around 1 pm. President Barack Obama was not at the White House at the time. (AP Photo/Charles Dharapak)
Secret Service apprehend an unidentified man on the lawn of the White House after he jumped a fence and ran across the North Lawn at the White House on Wednesday Feb. 25, 2004. (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert)
Secret Service apprehend an unidentified man on the lawn of the White House after he jumped a fence and ran across the North Lawn at the White House on Wednesday Feb. 25, 2004. (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert)
Secret Service personnel lead away an unidentified man, center with black shirt, after he jumped the fence at the White House in Washington Tuesday, Oct. 31, 2000, leaving a small bag on the lawn. Secret Service closed off one of the gates near the bag until the bomb squad could check for explosives. No explosives were found. (AP Photo/Ron Edmonds)
WASHINGTON - JULY 31: Uniformed Secret Service agents detain a man who attempted to jump the fence on to the North Lawn of the White House July 31, 2006, in Washington DC. The man was detained without incident. (Photo by Joshua Roberts/Getty Images)
Uniformed Secret Service officers walk along the lawn on the North side of the White House in Washington, Saturday, Sept. 20, 2014. The Secret Service is coming under intense scrutiny after a man who hopped the White House fence made it all the way through the front door before being apprehended. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)
Secret Service police give instructions as they evacuate the White House minutes after President Barack Obama departed for Camp David aboard Marine One on Friday, Sept. 19, 2014, in Washington. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)
An explosive technician in a bomb suit approaches a vehicle near the entrance to White House in Washington, Saturday, Sept. 20, 2014. Secret Service says a man has been arrested for trying to unlawfully enter the White House, less than 24 hours after a fence-jumper made it all the way into the building. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)
A Secret Service agent gives directions during an evacuation of the White House minutes after President Barack Obama departed for Camp David aboard Marine One on Friday, Sept. 19, 2014, in Washington. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)
The White House is framed with the fence on the North side of the White House in Washington, Saturday, Sept. 20, 2014. The Secret Service is coming under renewed scrutiny after a man scaled the White House fence and made it all the way through the front door before he was apprehended. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)
A Secret Service agent gives directions during an evacuation from the White House minutes after President Barack Obama departed for Camp David aboard Marine One on Friday, Sept. 19, 2014, in Washington. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)
An explosive technician in a bomb suit kneels as he searches a vehicle near the entrance to White House in Washington, Saturday, Sept. 20, 2014. Secret Service says a man has been arrested for trying to unlawfully enter the White House, less than 24 hours after a fence-jumper made it all the way into the building. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)
This Sept. 21, 2009 photo provided by Jerry Murphy shows Omar Gonzalez, who was married to Murphy's mother, Samantha, until they divorced in 2012. Authorities have identified Gonzalez as the man who got into the White House after scaling a fence on Friday, Sept. 19, 2014. (AP Photo/Courtesy Jerry Murphy)
United States Secret Service director Julia Pierson and Senate Homeland Security Committee Chairman Tom Carper, D-Del., leave a committee hearing on recent Secret Service agents behavior, on Capitol Hill in Washington, Tuesday, April 1, 2014. (AP Photo/Cliff Owen)
Secret Service Director Julia Pierson, left, is sworn in on Capitol Hill in Washington, Tuesday, Sept, 30, 2014, prior to testifying before the House Oversight Committee as it examines details surrounding a security breach at the White House when a man climbed over a fence, sprinted across the north lawn and dash deep into the executive mansion before finally being subdued. Pierson is joined at the witness table by Ralph Basham, a former Secret Service director, now a partner with Command Consulting Group, a private security firm, and Todd M. Keil, far right, senior advisor with TorchStone Page, a private security firm. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)
WASHINGTON, DC - SEPTEMBER 29: An extra layer of barricade has been set up outside the White House September 29, 2014 in Washington, DC. Omar Gonzalez, the man arrested on Friday after jumping the White House fence, went deeper into the building than what it was previously reported. (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)
Secret Service Director Julia Pierson is questioned by Rep. Trey Gowdy, R-S.C. on Capitol Hill in Washington, Tuesday, Sept. 30, 2014, as she testified before the House Oversight Committee in its examination of a security breach at the White House. The agency that protects the president and his family is under scrutiny after a man climbed over a fence, sprinted across the north lawn and dashed deep into the executive mansion before finally being subdued. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)
House Oversight Committee member Rep. Jason Chaffetz, R-Utah leads the questioning of Secret Service Director Julia Pierson as the committee examines details surrounding a security breach at the White House when a man climbed over a fence, sprinted across the north lawn and dash deep into the executive mansion before finally being subdued, Tuesday, Sept. 30, 2014, on Capitol Hill in Washington. The committee's ranking member Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Mid. is at left. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)
US Secret Service officers stand watch as US President Barack Obama returns to the Oval Office at the White House in Washington, DC, October 14, 2014. AFP PHOTO / Jim WATSON (Photo credit should read JIM WATSON/AFP/Getty Images)
A member of the US Secret Service stands guard while President Barack Obama walks Marine One on the South Lawn of the White House October 9, 2014 in Washington, DC. Obama is traveling to California through Saturday. AFP PHOTO/Brendan SMIALOWSKI (Photo credit should read BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP/Getty Images)
House Oversight Committee member Rep. Jason Chaffetz, R-Utah leads the questioning of Secret Service Director Julia Pierson as the committee examines details surrounding a security breach at the White House when a man climbed over a fence, sprinted across the north lawn and dash deep into the executive mansion before finally being subdued, Tuesday, Sept. 30, 2014, on Capitol Hill in Washington. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)
Rep. Jason Chaffetz, R-Utah, left, and Rep. Mark Meadows, R-N.C., confer as the House Oversight Committee meets to hear from U.S. Secret Service Director Julia Pierson about a security breach at the White House when a man climbed over a fence, sprinted across the north lawn and dash deep into the executive mansion before finally being subdued, on Capitol Hill in Washington, Tuesday, Sept. 30, 2014. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)
Rep. Jason Chaffetz, R-Utah, left, and Rep. Mark Meadows, R-N.C., confer as the House Oversight Committee meets to hear from U.S. Secret Service Director Julia Pierson about a security breach at the White House when a man climbed over a fence, sprinted across the north lawn and dash deep into the executive mansion before finally being subdued, on Capitol Hill in Washington, Tuesday, Sept. 30, 2014. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)
Rep. Jason Chaffetz, R-Utah, arrives at the House Oversight Committee hearing room to lead the questioning of Secret Service Director Julia Pierson over the security breach at the White House, on Capitol Hill in Washington, Tuesday, Sept. 30, 2014. Chaffetz, 47, chairs the House Oversight Subcommittee on National Security and is a top contender to take over the full committee gavel when a new Congress convenes in January. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)
Secret Service Director Julia Pierson listens on Capitol Hill in Washington, Tuesday, Sept. 30, 2014, as she testifies before the House Oversight Committee as it examines details surrounding a security breach at the White House when a man climbed over a fence, sprinted across the north lawn and dash deep into the executive mansion before finally being subdued. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)
WASHINGTON, DC - SEPTEMBER 30: Secret Service Director Julia Pierson testifies to the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee on the White House perimeter breach at the Rayburn House Office Building on September 30, 2014 in Washington, DC. Pierson is giving an account of an incident involving a security breach at the White House after a man jumped the fence and was not subdued until after he had entered the mansion, deeper into the building than what it was previously reported. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)
Director of the United States Secret Service Julia Pierson testifies before the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC September 30, 2014. The head of the Secret Service took responsibility Tuesday for security lapses at the White House, saying a recent intrusion by a knife-wielding man was 'unacceptable' and would not occur again. 'This is unacceptable. I take full responsibility and it will never happen again,' Secret Service director Julia Pierson told US lawmakers angered by a series of security failures at the presidential mansion. AFP PHOTO / Jim WATSON (Photo credit should read JIM WATSON/AFP/Getty Images)
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