Obama Taps Insider as Secret Service Chief After Being Prodded to Choose an Outsider
Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson told lawmakers late last year that the Secret Service, rocked by scandals in recent years, has “fundamental, systemic issues” that can only be fixed by an agency outsider. On Wednesday, President Barack Obama instead tasked the ultimate insider to fix them.
The White House selected Joseph P. Clancy, who formerly led Obama’s security detail and has been serving as the interim chief of the Secret Service, to permanently run the agency. Clancy is likely to be a controversial pick with lawmakers, who want an outsider to overhaul the Secret Service after a string of embarrassing scandals and security lapses. If the president had chosen the other leading candidate, Sean Joyce, a former deputy director of the F.B.I., it would have been the first time in the history of the Secret Service someone who had never been an agent ran the agency.
Clancy takes over an agency in disarray. Relentless congressional critics have hammered the Secret Service for an incident in September 2014 when a man jumped the White House fence and made it into the president’s residence. A day earlier, the president rode in an elevator with an armed security contractor. Soon after, Julia Pierson, the agency’s director, resignedand five others have been demoted in the last month.
The White House breach prompted a review last fall by the Homeland Security Department, which found the Secret Service is “stretched to and, in many cases, beyond its limits.” It also recommended hiring an outsider to run the agency.
“Only a director from outside the Secret Service, removed from organizational traditions and personal relationships, will be able to do the honest top-to-bottom reassessment this will require,” the report found.
The Secret Service has also suffered less serious but embarrassing scandals in recent years. In 2012, at the 6th Summit of the Americas in Colombia, agents brought prostitutes into their hotel before the president arrived. Then, in October 2014, the lead investigator on the Colombia incident, David Nieland, resigned after being videotaped entering a building under surveillance as part of a prostitution investigation in Florida.