Obama names first woman Secret Service chief

Obama names first woman Secret Service chief

WASHINGTON - Agence France-Presse
Obama names first woman Secret Service chief

Veteran secret service agent Julia Pierson is shown in this undated handout photo provided by the Department of Homeland Security March 26. President Barack Obama has chosen Julia Pierson as Secret Service director, the first woman to head the agency that protects the president, two officials told Reuters. REUTERS/Department of Homeland Security/Handout

US President Barack Obama Tuesday named on March 26 Julia Pierson as the first female chief of the Secret Service, the elite protection branch sullied by a prostitution scandal in Colombia last year.

Pierson, currently Secret Service chief of staff, has worked for the agency, which protects the president and his family and investigates currency counterfeiting and fraud, for 30 years.

"Julia has consistently exemplified the spirit and dedication the men and women of the service demonstrate every day," Obama said in a statement.

"Julia is eminently qualified to lead the agency that not only safeguards Americans at major events and secures our financial system, but also protects our leaders and our first families, including my own." The Secret Service last year scrambled to contain fallout from an affair which involved prostitutes and its agents in the Colombian city of Cartagena, where Obama attended the Summit of the Americas.

More than two dozen Secret Service agents and military personnel, tasked with preparing security for Obama's high-profile visit, were sent home as a result. Eight Secret Service agents left the agency over the incident.

Secret Service director Mark Sullivan, who is retiring, apologized for the drama, which prompted the agency to change some of its rules.

The goings-on in Cartagena and subsequent public outcry led to broader questions about the behavior of Secret Service agents and the protection branch's macho culture.