bureaucracybusters

SECRET SERVICE: REFORMS URGENTLY NEEDED – PART ONE (OF TWO)

In Bureaucracy, History, Law Enforcement, Politics on February 19, 2015 at 2:21 am

The White House has made it official: President Barack Obama has chosen the man he wants to run the agency responsible for protecting him.

It’s Joseph Clancy, the former special agent who Obama asked in October, 2014, to temporarily run the troubled Secret Service.

Clancy is the former head of the service’s presidential protective division.  He was quickly appointed on an interim basis in a hurry after then-Director Julia Pierson was forced to resign on October 1 after a series of highly embarrassing security breaches.

Joseph Clancy

On October 10, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security created a four-member panel to conduct an independent review of the Secret Service.  Its results were presented in December.

Among the panel’s recommendations: The next Secret Service director should be an outsider:

“The next director will have to make difficult choices, identifying clear priorities for the organization and holding management accountable for any failure to achieve those priorities.

“Only a director from outside the (Secret) Service, removed from organizational traditions and personal relationships, will be able to do the honest top-to-bottom reassessment this will require.”

Jason Chaffetz, chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, said it was “disappointing” that Obama decided not to follow the panel’s recommendations.

If Clancy is serious about reforming the agency, he has a lot of work to do.

Consider:

On September 11, 2001, Secret Service agents literally grabbed Vice President Dick Cheney and hauled him from the White House to a secure facility beneath the Executive Mansion.

As for everyone else who worked in the White House, agents simply threw open the White House doors and ordered: “Run!”

“Women, take off your shoes!” agents shouted–so they could run faster. Frightened Presidential aides were told to remove their White House badges–just in case snipers were lurking nearby.

That was it.

A Secret Service agent posted outside the White House on September 11, 2001

Not knowing what to do, some aides walked home in a daze.

Click here: Amazon.com: Days of Fire: Bush and Cheney in the White House (9780385525190): Peter Baker: Books

(President George W. Bush was not in the White House at the time.  He was reading The Pet Goat to a group of children at Emma E. Booker Elementary School in Sarasota, Florida.)

Three days later, on September 14, Andy Card, Bush’s chief of staff, addressed White House staffers in Room 450 of the Eisenhower Executive Office Building, next to the West Wing.

Card said he understood that “this is not what any of you signed up for when you joined the White House staff.”  And he offered them the chance to resign without anyone–himself or the President–thinking any less of them.

When no one offered to leave, Card let a Secret Service agent offer security advice:

  • Vary your routines to and from work.
  • Watch out for any cars that might be following you.
  • Go to different restaurants for lunch.

At least one member of the audience, Bradford Berenson, an associate White House counsel, knew he wouldn’t be taking that advice.

Like most of the others at the meeting, his name was listed in the local phone book.  A terrorist wanting to kill him need only lurk outside Berenson’s home and open fire when he appeared.

Click here: 500 Days: Secrets and Lies in the Terror Wars: Kurt Eichenwald: 9781451669398: Amazon.com: Books

And that was it, as far as the Secret Service was concerned.

No offers of even temporary escorts by Secret Service agents.  No offers to install “panic buttons” in their homes in case of emergency.

In essence: “We’re really glad you’ve decided to serve your country.  But don’t expect us to protect you.  You’re on your own.”

Fast forward 13 years later.

On the night of September 19, 2014, an Iraq war veteran, Omar Gonzales, jumped the White House fence, ran more than 70 yards across the north lawn, and sprinted just past the north portico White House doors.

Gonzalez appeared unarmed as he ran across the lawn–which may be why Secret Service agents didn’t shoot him or release their service dogs to detain him. But he had a small folding knife with a three-and-one-half-inch serrated blade when he was apprehended.

And he could have been wearing a suicide vest under his shirt.

At least one Secret Service agent was on his cellphone at the time of the intrusion and thus missed the alarm.

According to a criminal complaint, when he was arrested he told Secret Service agents he was “concerned that the atmosphere was collapsing” and needed to contact the President “so he could get word out to the people.”

Even more disturbing: At the time of his arrest, Gonzalez had a machete, two hachets and 800 rounds of ammunition in his car.

In late August, Gonzalez had been stopped while walking along the White House fence. He was carrying a hatchet and allowed police to search his car, where they found camping gear and two dogs.  He was not arrested then.

Then, less than 24 hours after Gonzalez’s arrest, a second man was apprehended after he drove up to a White House gate and refused to leave.  This triggered a search of his vehicle by bomb technicians in full gear.  Other agents shut down nearby streets.  No bombs were found.

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