bureaucracybusters

SECRET SERVICE–FULL SPEED AHEAD TO DISASTER: PART ONE (OF TWO)

In Bureaucracy, History, Law Enforcement, Politics on December 28, 2015 at 2:37 am

The United States Secret Service (USSS) is “in crisis”–a crisis that threatens President Barack Obama and his successors as President of the United States.

That’s the verdict of a review of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee.

Since April, 2012, the agency has faced scandal–and scrutiny by the press and Committee. That was when reports first surfaced of agents buying the favors of prostitutes in Columbia.

Even more embarrassing for the USSS were a series of security breaches that potentially exposed President Barack Obama to danger.

As a result, during the last three years, three directors have headed the Secret Service. Numerous agents–including senior officials–have been disciplined, transferred or fired.

For decades, the Secret Service was seen by the press, public and other law enforcement agencies as an elite agency. And the Presidential Protection Detail (PPD) was seen as the most elite part of the agency.

No longer.

Secret Service agents guarding President Obama

Among the findings of the 438-page report:

  • The agency is understaffed and overworked.
  • Its staffing crisis started in 2011 owing to government-wide budget cuts demanded by Republicans.
  • The Secret Service has fewer employees today than it did in 2014, despite recommendations from an independent panel that staffing be increased.
  • There have been a number of undisclosed security breaches–such as in October, 2014, when an unauthorized woman gained access to a Congressional Hispanic Caucus event that Obama attended.
  • In February, two people gained access to the outer security perimeter of the White House.
  • There have been 143 security breaches–or attempted breaches–during the last 10 years at facilities protected by the agency.

“This report reveals that the Secret Service is in crisis,” Rep. Jason Chaffetz, (R-Utah) publicly stated.  “Morale is down, attrition is up, misconduct continues and security breaches persist.

“Strong leadership from the top is required to fix the systematic mismanagement within the agency, and to restore it to its former prestige.”

But the truth is that many of the problems now plaguing the U.S. Secret Service were on display long before the House issued its report.

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.

With the World Trade Center and Pentagon in flames, and the White House seemingly next in line as a target, this was the sum total of protection offered White House staffers by the agency considered the elite in Federal law enforcement.

White House staffers fleeing on 9/11

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–possibly one reason 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.

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.”

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