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Secret Service Director Resigns After Wave of Security Failures


"She believed it was in the best interest of the agency..."

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) AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite

Secret Service Director Julia Pierson resigned from her post on Wednesday, a day after she faced heavy criticism from Congress for repeated lapses of security that posed safety risks for President Barack Obama and his family.

In a statement released Wednesday afternoon, Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson said he accepted Pierson's resignation, and that he would appoint Joseph Clancy as acting director. Clancy was formerly a special agent in charge of the Presidential Protective Division of the Secret Service, and he retired in 2011.

Secret Service Director Julia Pierson faced tough questions Tuesday about various security failures involving efforts to protect the White House and President Barack Obama. On Wednesday, she resigned. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

Johnson also announced other steps aimed at addressing criticism of the agency that has come from both Republicans and Democrats.

He named DHS Deputy Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas as a point person to direct the inquiry on how the Secret Service bungled the September 19 incident in which a man jumped the fence at the White House and entered the main building. His review is due November 1.

Johnson also said he would convene a panel to assess the Secret Service and make recommendations about how to improve security at the White House.

Pierson withstood several hours of criticism from both parties on Tuesday, not only for the fence-jumping incident, but for a 2011 incident in which a man fired at the White House, but agents decided it was just a car backfiring. Press reports over the last few days have also indicated that it was an off-duty agent who apprehended the fence-jumper, and that agents allowed Obama to enter an elevator with a man with a gun just last month.

White House press secretary Josh Earnest said that Obama talked to Pierson and thanked her for her service. "Director Pierson offered her resignation because she believed it was in the best interest of the agency she dedicated her career to," Earnest said.

Earnest also said the White House first learned about the elevator incident in Atlanta on Tuesday, just moments before it was reported in the press.

Earlier Wednesday, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said she supported a call from a Democrat that Pierson should resign. House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) said he supports an investigation, and indicated support for removing Pierson.

"The more we discover, the clearer it becomes that the Secret Service is beset by a culture of complacency and incompetence," Boehner said. "As such, the president must make a swift determination on whether the agency is being well-served by its current leadership."

Despite all these problems, Johnson praised the Secret Service for handing two recent events at the White House, involving dozens of world leaders, without incident.

"As usual, the Secret Service executed these highly complex and demanding assignments without incident," he said. "There is no other protection service in the world that could have done this."

Fred Lucas contributed to this story

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