Secret Service Director Resigns After Controversy


Omar Gonzalez, an armed veteran, runs through the White House lawn after jumping a fence and evading security officials. An off-duty agent ended the chase by tackling the man inside the building. “It’s painful to leave as the agency is reeling from a significant security breach,” former director Julia Pearson said about the incident. Photo taken from CNN’s YouTube channel.

Matthew McFadden, Staff Writer

Throughout both of President Obama’s terms, the Secret Service has suffered many mishaps, causing Congress and the First Family to lose faith in the agency and its former director, Julia Pearson, who resigned in late September 2014.  Most recently, a drunken U.S. government worker crashed a drone onto the White House grounds, raising questions about the Secret Service’s protective measures.

The long string of incidents began in November 2009, when two aspiring reality TV stars, Tareq and Michaele Salahi, crashed President Obama’s first state dinner in honor of Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.  They managed to pass through multiple checkpoints, meet the President and Prime Minister, and leave undetected.  Officials only realized their mistake once the couple began to post pictures from the dinner on Facebook.

In November 2011, Oscar Ramiro Ortega-Hernandez, an unemployed 21-year-old man, shot at the White House from about 700-800 yards away, but a Secret Service official mistook the noise for that of a construction site a few blocks away.  Bullets hit the exterior while Sasha Obama, the president’s daughter, was home.

There have been multiple instances of misconduct where Secret Service personnel were sent home, placed on leave, or reassigned. In April 2012, the Secret Service fired eight agents after they took prostitutes back to their hotel rooms while doing advance work for a conference that the president would attend.

In November 2013, Ignacio Zamora Jr., the head of the president’s security detail, tried to reenter a woman’s hotel room after he left a government-issued bullet in a drawer.  An investigation also found that he and Timothy Barraclough, another agent, sent suggestive messages to a female agent.

During a presidential trip to Amsterdam in March 2014, three agents were placed on leave after heavy drinking, which caused one to pass out in the hallway.

However, the most recent security breaches occurred in September 2014.  During a trip to Atlanta, an unauthorized security contractor who was carrying a gun entered an elevator with the president.  The Secret Service did not immediately tell the president about the incident.  A few days later, a war veteran, armed with a knife, leaped over the White House fence, ran through the yard, and deep into the building before an off-duty agent stopped him.  The security alarm did not go off because nearby staff thought it was too noisy.

Julia Pearson, the former director of the Secret Service, resigned in October 2014 after a testimony to Congress, regarding the controversies she had faced as director.  “Congress has lost confidence in my ability to run the agency,” Julia Pearson said in an interview after a meeting with Homeland Security Secretary, Jeh Johnson, “…after that discussion I felt this was the noble thing to do.”  Former leader of the agency’s Presidential Protective Division, Joseph Clancy, has come out of retirement to serve as the acting director.  A permanent replacement has not been named.