Pierson Wanted Secret Service 'More Like Disney': Staff

Ex-director ignored security advice, cut employees, 'WaPo' article says
By Jenn Gidman,  Newser Staff
Posted Oct 2, 2014 12:32 PM CDT
Pierson Wanted Secret Service 'More Like Disney': Staff
The Secret Service's former director, Julia Pierson, testifies on Capitol Hill in Washington on Sept. 30, 2014.   (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

Julia Pierson, the Secret Service director who resigned yesterday, was brought in a year and a half ago to solve the agency's problems in the wake of its various sex scandals and other issues. But her tenure—marred by recent accusations of the service's ineptitude in handling a White House intruder and an armed felon who somehow got on an elevator with the president—has also been marked by morale issues, staff cuts, and frustration among staff who say Pierson ignored security advice and said the agency should "be more like Disney World," the Washington Post reports.

Some complaints about Pierson and the agency under her direction, according to the Post:

  • Officers who guard the White House "have grown resentful" of disparaging bosses and unpalatable work schedules, often being "forced to work on off-days."
  • Pierson reportedly dismissed an internal study's recommendations and said she wanted to cut the number of officers guarding the White House perimeter and within other "key units"; meanwhile, the agency has paid the costs for field agents to fly in for temporary gigs because of staff shortages.
  • When the agency was setting up for the US-Africa Leaders Summit in DC this summer, Pierson apparently thought all of the fencing and closed streets were "excessive," stunning her team by reportedly saying, "We need to be more like Disney World. We need to be more friendly, inviting." (Pierson worked at Disney in costume during high school, the Post notes.)
  • During a spring trip to the Netherlands, she was said to have instructed counterassault staff tasked with guarding the president's hotel to "move to more remote locations and put their weapons in bags," which, naturally, would hamper how quickly they could respond if an incident did occur to threaten the president.
  • The latest incident before Pierson's departure? She opened a street near a DC hotel where Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu—whom the Post calls "one of the most sought-after international targets"—was staying. She allegedly did so as a favor to DC's mayor, who was worried about "severe gridlock."
(Read more Secret Service stories.)

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