--Anybody not see this coming?--
By Tribune staff and wire reports
Secret Service Director Julia Pierson resigned under fire on Wednesday after a series of security lapses came to light involving the protection for President Barack Obama.
Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson announced Pierson's resignation and said Joseph Clancy, a veteran of the agency, was named acting director.
White House spokesman Josh Earnest said Obama had called Pierson to express his appreciation to her for her long years of service.
He said Obama had concluded that new leadership was needed at the agency after a number of security lapses, including a White House fence-jumper who managed to enter the front door of the mansion on Sept. 19 and get into the ceremonial East Room before off-duty agents stopped him.
Pierson acknowledged Tuesday the agency had failed when it allowed a man to jump the fence at the home of the president, burst through the front door and run about 130 feet into the East Room, which is used for events and receptions.
"This is unacceptable and I take full responsibility," Pierson told a U.S. House of Representatives committee.
"We are all outraged within the Secret Service at how this incident came to pass. It is self-evident mistakes were made," she said, promising lawmakers that it would never happen again.
As a first step, Pierson said the front door of the White House now has an automated lock when there is a security breach. It did not have one at the time of the intrusion.
Any disciplinary actions, however, would be based on an internal probe by the agency, Pierson said.
House Oversight Committee Chairman Darrell Issa, a Republican, said an internal probe was insufficient to rebuild trust in the agency. U.S. Representative Michael McCaul, chairman of the House Committee on Homeland Security, said he would introduce legislation to create an independent commission to conduct a top-to-bottom review of the agency.
In a hearing that lasted more than three hours, lawmakers criticized Pierson's initial post-incident statement, which made it appear intruder Omar Gonzalez was apprehended just inside the door.
She acknowledged on Tuesday that Gonzalez, an Iraq war veteran, struggled with an officer inside the door and crossed through a large foyer into a hallway and most of the way through the 80-foot East Room. Shortly before the intrusion, Obama and his family had left for the weekend.
Lawmakers questioned why Gonzalez had escaped more scrutiny. In July, he was arrested in Virginia for reckless driving, eluding police and possessing a sawed-off shotgun. In August, he was stopped, but not arrested, while walking along the south fence of the White House with a hatchet in his waistband.
Pierson said the agency was down about 550 employees from its optimal level, and there had been staff reductions following automatic spending cuts and "other fiscal constraints."
The nation-rattling havoc one man can wreak
Obama appointed Pierson, 55, a 30-year Secret Service veteran, in March 2013. The first female director in the agency's 148-history, she was given the mission of cleaning up the agency's culture.
Troubles in the Secret Service
The incident was another black mark for the Secret Service, which has suffered a series of scandals including a lone gunman firing shots at the White House in 2011, a prostitution scandal involving agents in Colombia in 2012 and a night of drinking in March that led to three agents being sent home from a presidential trip to Amsterdam. Factbox
In another security lapse for the agency, a private security agent who had a gun shared an elevator with Obama in Atlanta on Sept. 16, three days before the White House intrusion, a Secret Service official said.
The man, who was operating an elevator carrying Obama and his Secret Service detail during the president's visit to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, aroused suspicion when he began taking pictures and video of Obama on his phone, the official said.
During questioning, the man's supervisor asked for his gun, startling Secret Service agents.
Under agency rules, people with access to the president need special clearance to carry guns.