TIME White House

Secret Service Director Resigns

Secret Service Director Julia Pierson Testifies To House Committee On Recent Security Breaches At White House
Secret Service director Julia Pierson prepares to testify to the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee on the White House perimeter breach at the Rayburn House Office Building, in Washington, D.C., on Sept. 30, 2014 Chip Somodevilla—Getty Images

Following a fence jumper who made it inside and other revelations

Julia Pierson, the embattled director of the U.S. Secret Service, resigned Wednesday amid embarrassing new revelations of breaches to the protective cordon around President Barack Obama.

Pierson, who had been in the job only a year, submitted her resignation to Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson, who accepted, Johnson said in a statement. The move comes a day after a contentious hearing on Capitol Hill over how an armed man managed to jump the White House fence and enter the Executive Mansion last month before being apprehended by officers, and hours after congressional leaders, including House minority leader Nancy Pelosi, indicated she should resign.

The White House had publicly stood by Pierson, and Obama phoned Pierson to thank her for her 30 years of service to the agency after she resigned Wednesday afternoon. But Pierson lost that support following “accumulating” reports of gaps in presidential security, including reports Tuesday that an armed contract security guard who was improperly screened by Secret Service agents managed to ride in an elevator with Obama during a visit to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta last month. The White House first learned of that incident “shortly before it was reported by a news organization,” White House press secretary Josh Earnest said.

“The President concluded that new leadership of that agency was required,” Earnest said. He later added the White House learned of the elevator incident “just minutes” before it was published in the press.

Congressional lawmakers have been calling for an independent commission to investigate the Secret Service for days. Representative Jason Chaffetz, one of Pierson’s most vocal critics on Capitol hill, praised her resignation.

“Director Pierson’s resignation is a matter of national security and I am pleased she is stepping down,” said Chaffetz on Wednesday. ‘The position should be filled immediately by new leadership from outside the Secret Service for a fresh start.”

Representative Elijah Cummings, ranking member of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, said he “respects” Pierson’s decision to step down. He added that “now we have to ensure that we focus on the difficult work of fully restoring the Secret Service to its rightful status as the most elite protective service in the world.”

House Oversight and Government Reform Committee chairman Darrell Issa, however, said that “problems at the Secret Service predate Ms. Pierson’s tenure as director, and her resignation certainly does not resolve them. The Oversight Committee will continue to examine clear and serious agency failures at the Secret Service that have been exposed.”

Johnson named Joseph Clancy, a retired agent who previously led the agency’s Presidential Protective Division, as the interim acting director of the Secret Service, while taking the ongoing review of the Sept. 19 fence-jumping incident out of the hands of the agency. Clancy was most recently director of corporate security at Comcast.

Deputy Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro Mayorkas and the department’s general counsel will now oversee the inquiry, with its report due on Nov. 1. Johnson is also appointing a panel of outside experts, yet to be named, to conduct an independent outside investigation of security at the White House compound, as well as broader issues that have plagued the Secret Service in recent months.

A House Democratic aide said Pierson was asked during a closed-door classified session with lawmakers Tuesday whether there were any additional security incidents she was aware of that had not been disclosed, and that she was silent on the elevator incident.

— With reporting by Alex Rogers / Washington

TIME Infectious Disease

White House Urges Calm After First Confirmed U.S. Ebola Case

Tourists visit the south side of the White House on Sept. 30, 2014 in Washington.
Tourists visit the south side of the White House on Sept. 30, 2014 in Washington. Mark Wilson—Getty Images

"You can't get Ebola through air. You can't get Ebola through water. You can't get Ebola through food in the U.S."

Within minutes of confirmation from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) of the first confirmed case of Ebola on U.S. soil, the White House communications operation sprang into overdrive. Their message: don’t panic.

Seeking to combat the inevitable national concern over the deadly infectious disease which has ravage West Africa for more than six months,the Obama administration took to social media to raise awareness that while the virus is potent, it is relatively hard to contract.

“You can’t get Ebola through air. You can’t get Ebola through water. You can’t get Ebola through food in the U.S.,” the administration said in a rapid-response graphic shared on the White House website and Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram accounts. “America has the best doctors and public health infrastructure in the world, and we are prepared to respond.”

WhiteHouse.Gov

President Barack Obama was informed minutes before a scheduled meeting of the National Security Council on the efforts to combat the spread of the Islamic State of Iraq and Greater Syria (ISIS), an official said.

Lisa Monaco, the President’s Counterterrorism and Homeland Security Advisor, has been coordinating the administration’s homeland preparedness response to Ebola, and White House chief information officer Steven VanRoekel has returned to the U.S. Agency for International Development to work on the response, but Obama has not appointed a point-person to oversee the government-wide effort to combat Ebola.

CDC Director Dr. Tom Frieden briefed Obama by phone Tuesday afternoon on the diagnosis, as well as the “stringent isolation protocols under which the patient is being treated as well as ongoing efforts to trace the patient’s contacts to mitigate the risk of additional cases,” the White House said.

Earlier in September, Obama traveled to CDC headquarters in Atlanta for a briefing on the disease, announcing the deployment of hundreds of U.S. medical personnel and 3,000 American troops to assist in the response in Africa, while various federal agencies have worked to raise awareness at U.S. ports of entry and medical facilities.

In an interview with NBC’s Chuck Todd in early September, Obama said Americans shouldn’t consider the virus a “short term” threat, but warned that unchecked it could be a greater issue.

“Americans shouldn’t be concerned about the prospects of contagion here in the United States short term, because it’s not an airborne disease,” Obama said on Meet the Press. But he warned that the U.S. must make the disease a “national-security priority.” “If we don’t make that effort now, and this spreads not just through Africa but other parts of the world, there’s the prospect then that the virus mutates,” he said. “It becomes more easily transmittable. And then it could be a serious danger to the United States.”

Senior Advisor Dan Pfeiffer was appearing on CNN’s The Situation Room in a pre-arranged interview Tuesday evening, but urged calm. “America has the best doctors and public health infrastructure in the world, so we’re ready to deal with it,” he said, adding that the U.S. has “been prepared for this possibility for a long time.”

TIME 2016 Election

Bobby Jindal to Appear With Hobby Lobby Family

Bobby Jindal, governor of Louisiana, waves after speaking during the Conservative Political Action Conference in National Harbor, Maryland, U.S., on Thursday, March 6, 2014. Andrew Harrer—Bloomberg/Getty Images

Louisiana governor will stand alongside the Green family at an event, as he prepares the way for likely presidential bid

Lousiana Gov. Bobby Jindal will appear with the billionaire family behind the Hobby Lobby arts and crafts chain Wednesday, as the Republican lawmaker continues to lay the groundwork for a likely presidential bid in 2016.

According to an aide, Jindal will appear at an event at the Hobby Lobby campus in Oklahoma City Wednesday evening with the Green family in support of the Museum of the Bible, a museum backed by the family planned for Washington, D.C.

The Greens’ retail chain became a nationwide household name earlier this year when the Supreme Court ruled that it could not be required to pay for contraceptive coverage as part of employees’ health insurance plans because it would violate their Christian beliefs.

Jindal was among the most vocal Republicans in support of Hobby Lobby before the Supreme Court and one of the loudest celebrants after the decision was handed down. In a commencement address at Liberty University in May, Jindal highlighted the Green family’s fight against the Obama administration, calling the company “nothing less than an all-American success story.”

The event will provide Jindal an opportunity to highlight one of his signature issues, religious freedom, while placing him next to a potential deep-pocketed donor for his likely presidential campaign. In a February address at the Reagan Library in California, Jindal held up the Hobby Lobby as an example of what he terms the Obama administration’s “silent war against religious liberty.”

The conservative GOP lawmaker also supports the efforts by some in the Republican Party to advocate for greater availability of birth control over the counter at pharmacies, instead of the requirement for a doctor’s prescription.

TIME 2014 Election

The Top 3 Campaign Fundraising Fibs

Check out some of the worst offenders

Tuesday marks the end of the final full quarter of political fundraising before November’s midterm elections, and both campaigns and outside groups aren’t just cramming inboxes with solicitations: They’re resorting to bold-faced lies.

On both sides of the fight, political groups are fast at work driving fear into the hearts of their supporters with terrifying ALL-CAPS subject lines and pleas of poverty. But aside from those messaging gimmicks, they are resorting to even less savory tactics to drive up their end-of-quarter fundraising totals, including invented “memberships” and matched donations.

Political email lists are generally self-selecting groups of supporters inclined to make donations and unfazed by the constant pleas for cash, and these tactics have proven remarkably effective. But the latest fundraising innovations may be furthering the erosion of what little trust remains in the political system, and potentially in the very same groups looking to fundraise.

“Over the long term it’s important for candidates and parties to have the trust and goodwill of their supporters, which these kinds of tactics can chip away at,” one Democratic digital consultant warned. “Over the short term, obviously, they can drive a lot of donations. So that’s a balance each campaign and committee has to figure out how to strike. But you don’t want to wind up in a position where, when you have an actual crisis to communicate around or a message that legitimately needs to be delivered, no one is paying any attention. Nor, on a human level, do you really want to irritate everyone.”

Here are some of the worst offenders:

The “Triple-Match”

A favorite of both the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee and the National Republican Congressional Committee, among others, the gimmick suggests that donations will be triple-matched by another donor. This is a practice that’s common in non-profit fundraising, but is fraught with issues in political fundraising. High-dollar donations, for instance, legally cannot be triple-matched by a donor without running afoul of Federal Election Commission contribution limits. Experts say it’s an outright lie—a practice that would draw increased scrutiny in the private sector, but not in politics. Neither the DCCC nor the NRCC would comment on the practice.

Screen Shot 2014-09-30 at 11.16.19 AM

Screen Shot 2014-09-30 at 11.16.33 AM“Membership”

While top-tier donors are often afforded special privileges, many political groups advertise “membership” for average online donors—a meaningless designation. House Majority PAC and the National Republican Senatorial Committee are recent offenders on this front.

Screen Shot 2014-09-30 at 11.25.13 AM Screen Shot 2014-09-30 at 11.20.47 AM

Fake subject lines

It’s not uncommon for political groups to fake subject lines, but they are increasingly designed to appear as though sent by friends or acquaintances. House Majority PAC has taken to suggesting that emails are being sent from staffers’ “(personal)” accounts or even their iPads. That’s not the case.
Screen Shot 2014-09-30 at 11.21.24 AM

TIME United Nations

U.S. Leads U.N. Effort to Stop Foreign Terrorists From Traveling

UN-SECURITY COUNCIL-OBAMA
U.S. President Barack Obama chairs a special meeting of the U.N. Security Council during the 69th session of the U.N. General Assembly on Sept. 24, 2014, in New York City Timothy A. Clary—AFP/Getty Images

President Barack Obama convened a U.N. Security Council summit Wednesday to push for efforts to curtail the movements of extremist fighters who have played a substantial role in the rise of the Islamic State of Iraq and Greater Syria (ISIS).

“These terrorists believe our countries will be unable to stop them,” Obama said Wednesday. “The safety of our citizens demands that we do.”

The rare move — only the sixth time the council has met at the head-of-government level — reflected the U.S.’s commitment to leading a global effort to prevent radicalism, share information about potential fighters and prevent potentially dangerous actors from committing acts of terrorism, U.S. officials said. The Security Council unanimously adopted a resolution defining so-called foreign terrorist fighters, and providing an international legal framework for their prosecution.

The resolution calls on member states to criminalize the travel, or attempt to travel, of individuals for the purpose of “the perpetration, planning, or preparation of, or participation in, terrorist acts, or the providing or receiving of terrorist training,” as well as raising funds or recruitment of fighters.

The National Counterterrorism Center estimates that 15,000 fighters from 80 countries have or are currently fighting inside Syria, many alongside ISIS and the al-Qaeda-affiliated Nusra Front, including 2,000 Europeans and over 100 Americans. Some of the Americans, officials said, have returned to the U.S.

Senior U.S. administration officials said the resolution would create a framework for other countries to share passenger-name records and other identifying information for suspected fighters, preventing them from traveling to conflict zones and from returning to their home countries if already there.

In conjunction with the resolution, the U.S. designated 10 individuals and two groups, many tied to ISIS, as Specially Designated Global Terrorists, subjecting them to U.S. sanctions.

TIME White House

Obama Calls on World to Reject ‘Cancer of Violent Extremism’ in UN Address

69th session of the UN General Assembly
President Barack Obama speaks during the general debate of the 69th session of the United Nations General Assembly at the United Nations headquarters in New York on Sept. 24, 2014. Justin Lane—EPA

The president devoted much of his annual speech to the UN General Assembly to rebutting extremist ideologies

With the U.S. military continuing its air campaign against the Islamic State of Iraq and Greater Syria (ISIS), President Barack Obama sounded a call to the world to combat of the spread of Islamic extremism Wednesday.

Acknowledging a “pervasive unease in our world” in an address to the United Nations General Assembly, Obama highlighted American efforts to address global challenges from Ebola to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, but devoted much of his annual speech to rebutting extremist ideologies, and encouraging the world to join the U.S.-led campaign against them.

“It is time for the world–especially Muslim communities–to explicitly, forcefully, and consistently reject the ideology of al Qaeda and [ISIS],” Obama said, calling on leaders to reject sectarian strife and push back on extremist propaganda. “It is time for a new compact among the civilized peoples of this world to eradicate war at its most fundamental source: the corruption of young minds by violent ideology.”

“No God condones this terror,” Obama said of the Islamist militant group which has seized large swaths of territory across Iraq and Syria. “No grievance justifies these actions. There can be no reasoning—no negotiation—with this brand of evil. The only language understood by killers like this is the language of force. So the United States of America will work with a broad coalition to dismantle this network of death.”

Speaking 36 hours after the U.S. launched an extended air campaign against ISIS in Syria alongside Arab allies, Obama reiterated the U.S. commitment to strike out against terrorist threats wherever they reside. “Ultimately, the task of rejecting sectarianism and extremism is a generational task—a task for the people of the Middle East themselves,” Obama said. “No external power can bring about a transformation of hearts and minds. But America will be a respectful and constructive partner. We will neither tolerate terrorist safe-havens, nor act as an occupying power.”

Elsewhere in his speech, Obama was sharply critical of Russian aggression in eastern Ukraine, warning that Russia’s actions “challenge” the post-World War II order. “This is a vision of the world in which might makes right—a world in which one nation’s borders can be redrawn by another, and civilized people are not allowed to recover the remains of their loved ones because of the truth that might be revealed,” Obama said. “We will impose a cost on Russia for aggression, and counter falsehoods with the truth.”

Highlighting the role America is playing in addressing the Ebola crisis in West Africa, including deploying hundreds of doctors and thousands of troops to assist in the response, Obama said “It’s easy to see this as a distant problem – until it is not… At this crossroads, I can promise you that the United States of America will not be distracted or deterred from what must be done.”

Obama also invoked last month’s unrest in Ferguson, Mo. following the shooting of Michael Brown, conceding that the U.S. has struggled to live up to its ideals, but said that despite challenges “we welcome the scrutiny of the world” as a country that is striving to address its lingering problems.

“So yes, we have our own racial and ethnic tensions,” Obama said. “And like every country, we continually wrestle with how to reconcile the vast changes wrought by globalization and greater diversity with the traditions that we hold dear. But we welcome the scrutiny of the world – because what you see in America is a country that has steadily worked to address our problems and make our union more perfect. America is not the same as it was 100 years ago, 50 years ago, or even a decade ago. Because we fight for our ideals, and are willing to criticize ourselves when we fall short.”

TIME Military

U.S. Launches Air-Strike Campaign Against ISIS in Syria

The strikes were aimed at key targets of the Islamic State of Iraq and Greater Syria

Updated Sept. 23 at 12:56 p.m. E.T.

The United States and allied forces launched airstrikes against Islamist militants in Syria for the first time late Monday, the Pentagon confirmed.

The strikes, which were carried out early Tuesday morning local time, were aimed at key targets of the Islamic State of Iraq and Greater Syria (ISIS), including its base of operations in Raqqa, Syria, as well as a secretive al-Qaeda offshoot known as the Khorasan Group. The Pentagon said the U.S. and its allies used a mix of fighter, bomber and Tomahawk Land Attack Missiles.

President Barack Obama authorized the military to begin a broad-based aerial campaign against ISIS forces in Iraq and Syria earlier this month, and is working to assemble a global coalition to combat the group, which has seized vast swaths of Iraqi and Syrian territory. In a victory for Obama’s efforts to demonstrate regional support for the anti-ISIS effort, the U.S. was accompanied by five Arab nations in the strikes, Bahrain, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates. Those nations all participated in, or supported, the strikes.

Speaking from the White House South Lawn Tuesday morning, Obama thanked the American allies for their support. “The strength of this coalition makes it clear to the world that this is not America’s fight alone,” he said in a brief statement. Obama highlighted both the strikes against ISIS and Khorasan, saying “we will not tolerate safe havens for terrorists who threaten our people.”

“The strikes destroyed or damaged multiple ISIL targets in the vicinity of Ar Raqqah, Dayr az Zawr, Al Hasakah, and Abu Kamal and included ISIL fighters, training compounds, headquarters and command and control facilities, storage facilities, a finance center, supply trucks and armed vehicles,” CENTCOM said Tuesday.

The strikes began the night before Obama was set to travel to New York City for a meeting of the U.N. General Assembly. A White House official said Obama was updated on the operation as it proceeded.

The president did not seek congressional authorization for the air campaign against ISIS, but Obama and other administration officials briefed leaders on Capitol Hill late Monday shortly before the strikes began. Last week Congress voted to authorize the Pentagon to train and equip moderate Syrian rebels who are fighting both ISIS and the regime of Syrian President Bashar al Assad. U.S. officials said the Assad government was provided notification that the strikes were imminent, but was not consulted or involved in coordinating the effort.

The military said the American strikes included 47 Tomahawk cruise missiles launched from the USS Arleigh Burke and USS Philippine Sea operating from the Red Sea and North Arabian Gulf, “as well as U.S. Air Force, Navy and Marine Corps fighter, remotely piloted and bomber aircraft.”

The campaign in Syria follows more than 194 airstrikes carried out over the past two months against ISIS targets in Iraq, but only recently has the U.S. moved on the “offense” against the group.

“The United States conducted these strikes as part of the President’s comprehensive strategy to degrade and ultimately defeat ISIL,” CENTCOM said. “Going forward, the U.S. military will continue to conduct targeted airstrikes against ISIL in Syria and Iraq as local forces go on the offensive against this terrorist group.”

The strikes against Khorasan Group were unexpected, and involved only American assets. Senior government officials have raised alarm about the network of veteran al-Qaeda extremists plotting attacks on the U.S. from Syrian safe havens, but have been wary of even confirming the group’s existence until the past several weeks.

“The United States has also taken action to disrupt the imminent attack plotting against the United States and Western interests conducted by a network of seasoned al-Qa’ida veterans—sometimes referred to as the Khorasan Group—who have established a safe haven in Syria to develop external attacks, construct and test improvised explosive devices and recruit Westerners to conduct operations.” CENTCOM said in the statement. “In total, U.S. Central Command conducted eight strikes against Khorasan Group targets west of Aleppo to include training camps, an explosives and munitions production facility, a communication building and command and control facilities.”

 

TIME 2016 Election

Ben Carson Gives More Hints at Presidential Bid

"You know, I will never be a politician. I will tell you that right of the bat"

Conservative firebrand Ben Carson said Monday that “the likelihood is strong” that he’ll run for president in 2016.

The author and retired neurosurgeon told conservative radio host Hugh Hewitt that he would make up his mind before May of next year. “Unless the American people indicate in November that they like big government intervention in every part of their lives, I think the likelihood is strong,” Carson said. The untested figure would face an uphill battle reaching out to moderate Republicans and swing voters.

Carson rose to the national prominence in 2013 when he eviscerated President Barack Obama’s tax policies and the Affordable Care Act while delivering remarks at the bipartisan National Prayer Breakfast. He has built a considerable following in conservative circles with a number of political action committees, including a new super PAC announced last week named “USA First.”

Carson told Hewitt he believes he can hold his own in a Republican field likely to be dominated by more experienced politicians from Washington and statehouses across the country, like New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie and Sen. Marco rubio. ” I’ve been talking all of my life,” he said. “And I will continue to talk. You know, I will never be a politician. I will tell you that right of the bat.”

Carson has won or finished near the top of several conservative straw polls, and a “National Draft Ben Carson for President Committee” has raised more than $7 million, though much of the money has found its way into the pockets of GOP operatives.

 

TIME White House

White House Intruder Had 800 Rounds of Ammo in Car, Prosecutor Says

White House Fence
Uniformed Secret Service officers walk along the lawn on the North side of the White House in Washington on Sept. 20, 2014. The Secret Service is coming under renewed scrutiny after a man scaled the White House fence and made it all the way through the front door before he was apprehended. Susan Walsh—AP

As Obama says he was "obviously concerned" by security breach

Updated 3:59pm ET

A former soldier suspected of jumping the White House fence while armed with a knife Friday had 800 rounds of ammunition in his car, a prosecutor claimed Monday.

Assistant U.S. Attorney David Mudd said during a preliminary hearing that Omar J. Gonzalez also had a hatchet and a knife in his automobile, but no gun. The prosecutor said Gonzalez, who was also arrested in August for possessing a sniper rifle and a sawn-off shotgun, represented a danger to the president, the Associated Press reports.

The news came the same day as President Barack Obama’s spokesman said he was “obviously concerned” about Friday’s fence-jumping incident at the White House.

White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest said Obama was briefed multiple times Friday night and updated throughout the weekend on the investigation into how the alleged jumper made it into the Executive Mansion, which prompted a short evacuation of part of the sprawling complex.

Secret Service Director Julia Pierson ordered a security review of the White House and of the events leading up to Friday’s incident, which occurred minutes after the First Family departed the South Lawn on Marine One for a weekend trip to Camp David. White House officials and Secretary of Homeland Security Jeh Johnson are are awaiting the results of the investigation.

“In the meantime, I encourage all of us to not rush to judgment about the event and not second-guess the judgment of security officers who had only seconds to act, until all the facts are in,” Johnson said in a statement Monday.

The Secret Service review will include the positioning of Secret Service assets inside and outside the White House perimeter, possible technical and security enhancements, and potential staffing issues, Earnest said. Secret Service officials are contemplating expanding the White House perimeter to screen tourists further from the complex or to create a larger buffer-zone around the presidential residence.

“Providing security at the White House is complicated business,” Earnest said, adding that Obama still has confidence in the agency charged with protecting him and his family.

“The Secret Service has the challenging task of balancing the need to ensure the safety and security of the first family, while also ensuring that the White House continues to be the people’s house,” Earnest said. “And balancing those equities is challenging work, but it’s clear that in this case a review of that work is warranted and that review will be conducted.”

Earnest said the agency has already made changes to some of its procedures, including beefing up security at the North Lawn fence-line. Additionally, he said the agency will now ensure that the North Portico door is locked when not in use by White House staff and tourists. “When the door is not in use, it will be secured,” Earnest said.

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