Julia Pierson, who quit (or was forced out under pressure) yesterday as director of the U.S. Secret Service, reportedly wanted the beleaguered agency to be more like Disney World.
As a Florida high school student, Pierson worked in costume at Walt Disney World.
Although the White House repeatedly expressed confidence (see below) in her continued role as Secret Service director, Pierson submitted her resignation in the afternoon.
Pierson, who served as director for 18 months as a culmination of three decades with the agency, spent hours testifying before irate lawmakers on Capitol Hill on Tuesday about security lapses such as White House fence jumper and a previously undisclosed shooting incident at the presidential residence. After the hearing, news broke of another revelation: In Atlanta recently, agents allowed an armed security guard with an alleged criminal record to get on an elevator with President Obama.
The Secret Service, which was previously embroiled in an overseas prostitution scandal, apparently has low morale and high turnover among other issues that are undermining its effectiveness. As part of the fallout from these security miscues, the Homeland Security Department has launched a review of Secret Service procedures.
In an interview yesterday, Pierson explained that "I think it's in the best interest of the Secret Service and the American public if I step down. Congress has lost confidence in my ability to run the agency. The media has made it clear that this is what they expected."
DHS has tapped retired Secret Service agent John Clancy, who previously led the presidential protective detail, as interim director to take over for Pierson, who was the Secret Service's first female boss.
According to the Washington Post, Pierson wanted to model the Secret Service after Disney, which caused one unnamed official to suggest that she was out of touch:
"In the spring, Pierson was irate at what she considered the excessive security measures her team had planned for the U.S.-Africa Leaders Summit, which Obama hosted this summer, demanding that it dismantle extra layers of fencing and reopen closed streets, according to two agency supervisors. Supervisors who had mapped out the security plan said they were taken aback when Pierson, who worked during high school at Walt Disney World as a costumed character and park attendant, said: 'We need to be more like Disney World. We need to be more friendly, inviting.'"The Post also claims that Pierson potentially jeopardized the safety of Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu this week by leaving open a street near his hotel.
"'I respect Pierson's service, but she hasn't been on a protective mission in two decades,' said one supervisor who spoke on the condition of anonymity. 'She doesn't know anything about security planning in a post-9/11 world.'"
In a 2007 interview, Pierson reportedly said of her teenage employment experience, "I started off in the parking lot, advanced to watercraft, and I wore one of those character outfits for a while in Americans on Parade. I think the experience of dealing with large crowds at the park had a good influence on my ability to do that sort of work with the Secret Service."
Do you think that Julia Pierson's Disney World comparison, if true, was a Mickey Mouse idea?
[top image credit: Bing]