First female Secret Service director sworn in at White House

WASHINGTON Wed Mar 27, 2013 5:33pm EDT

1 of 3. U.S. President Barack Obama (R) shakes hands with U.S. Secret Service agent Julia Pierson (L) after she is sworn in as the first woman Director of the Secret Service by Vice President Joe Biden in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington, March 27, 2013.

Credit: Reuters/Larry Downing

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WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The first female director of the U.S. Secret Service, Julia Pierson, was sworn in at the White House on Wednesday during a short ceremony that marked a historic shift for the agency charged with protecting the president.

Vice President Joe Biden administered the oath of office to Pierson, with President Barack Obama standing at their side.

"Obviously, she's breaking the mold in terms of directors of the agency, and I think that people are all extraordinarily proud of her," Obama told reporters at the end of the ceremony.

She has extraordinary qualifications, and I think a lot of people who have worked with Julia know how dedicated, how professional, how committed she is, and I think are absolutely certain that she's going to thrive in this job," he said.

Biden, who has a reputation for making occasional gaffes, said the agents who protect him were "excited that we picked her."

The Secret Service has been criticized for having an insular, male-dominated culture, and its reputation was tarnished by a 2012 scandal involving its agents and prostitutes in Colombia.

(Reporting by Jeff Mason; Editing by Paul Simao)

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