POLITICS

Secret Service director Julia Pierson resigns over White House breach

U.S. Secret Service Director Julia Pierson takes her seat to testify at the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee hearing on "White House Perimeter Breach: New Concerns about the Secret Service" on Capitol Hill in Washington Sept. 30, 2014. (REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque)

U.S. Secret Service Director Julia Pierson takes her seat to testify at the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee hearing on "White House Perimeter Breach: New Concerns about the Secret Service" on Capitol Hill in Washington Sept. 30, 2014. (REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque)

Secret Service Director Julia Pierson has resigned amid security lapses at the White House.

Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson said Wednesday that Pierson offered her resignation, and he accepted it.

The move came one day after her appearance before the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee in a congressional hearing focused on recent security lapses at the White House.

Pierson had worked at the Secret Service for 30 years. She will be replaced by Joseph Clancy, a former special agent in charge of the president's protective detail who retired in 2011. Pierson has been with the agency for 30 years.

Pierson took over the embattled agency last year after embarrassing incidents involving misconduct by officers and agents, including the 2012 Colombia prostitution scandal.

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On Tuesday, she faced blistering criticism from Congress and acknowledged that her agency failed in executing its plan to protect the White House when a man with a knife entered the mansion and ran through half the ground floor before being subdued.

"It's unacceptable," Pierson told lawmakers. 

Lawmakers criticized her for repeatedly failing to properly protect the president and his family. 

"I wish to God you protected the White House like you protected your reputation here today," Democratic Rep. Stephen Lynch told her at a hearing.

Calm but defensive in testimony before the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, Pierson disclosed that shortly before the intruder jumped the fence Sept. 19, at least two of her uniformed officers recognized him from an earlier troubling encounter but did not approach him or report his presence to superiors.

On Aug. 25, Army veteran Omar J. Gonzalez was stopped while carrying a small hatchet near the fence south of the White House, Pierson said. Weeks later, the same officers observed him "for some time" but never intervened. Gonzalez later went over the fence and broke inside the White House.

President Barack Obama and his daughters had left for Camp David shortly before the intrusion; Michelle Obama had gone to the retreat earlier in the day.

"The fact is the system broke down," declared committee chairman Darrell Issa. "An intruder walked in the front door of the White House, and that is unacceptable."

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