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By Kurtis Lee and Christi Parsons, Tribune Washington Bureau (TNS)

WASHINGTON — President Barack Obama on Wednesday tapped Joseph Clancy, interim head of the Secret Service, to run the agency full time after controversies spanning several years came to a head last year.

Clancy, a veteran of the Secret Service who has served in Obama’s detail, has been interim director since October when Julia Pierson resigned under pressure.

In January, the agency demoted four senior officials as it continued to deal with fallout from a series of security lapses, including a September incident where a man scaled the White House fence and made his way into the residence.

Obama administration officials have lauded Clancy for helping to implement multiple short-term security enhancements to prevent breaches. Those enhancements included directing all White House ground personnel to undergo practical training and calls for additional funding for that training.

In addition to the September fence incident, there was concern raised after an armed guard who did not have security clearance was able to ride in an elevator with Obama while he was visiting the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta last year. The Secret Service had also faced criticism two years earlier when agents were involved in soliciting prostitutes ahead of Obama’s visit to Colombia for a conference.

A panel assembled last month by the Department of Homeland Security has called for a series of improvements, including a redesigned White House fence and additional training for staff.
“Acting Director Clancy is a dedicated public servant who has made important chances since he began the job and has started the process of reforming the Service,” said Tom Perrelli, a former Department of Justice official, who is on the DHS panel. “I look forward to working with him as he continues to implement the panel’s recommendations.”

White House officials have lauded Clancy for acting on recommendations by the panel that include making critical personnel changes. The high-level officials reassigned within the agency came from various departments including protective operations and investigations.

With Obama’s appointment of Clancy on Wednesday, the president rejected calls from some members of Congress and the special panel for the agency to be run by an outsider.

“It is disappointing the president ignored the recommendation from the independent panel,” said Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-UT), chairman of the House Oversight Committee. “The panel made it crystal clear that only a director from outside the agency would meet the needs of the agency today — someone with a fresh perspective, free from allegiances and without ties to what has consistently been described as a ‘good old boys network.’ ”

(Lee reported from Los Angeles and Parsons from Washington.)

AFP Photo/Paul J. Richards

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