Working for the Secret Service means that if agents are doing their jobs well, no one will ever know it. The two yahoos who were out drinking at a retirement party and irresponsibly got behind the wheel and rammed a barricade at the White House on March 4, driving through a very-real bomb investigation, obviously did not receive this lesson.
This recent embarrassment, along with other incidents under the questionable leadership of former Director Julia Pierson, has sullied the once-sterling reputation of the supposed elite agency. Now the top Democrat on the House Oversight Committee is calling for more changes. Though he praised new Director Joseph Clancy, Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-Md.) also blasted away at the agency in scathing comments and said a “cultural of complacency and mediocrity” exists at the Secret Service.
And there might be a few personnel who like to party a bit too much, a former agent wrote in a book released last year about the Secret Service. In the book, the former agent described a culture of drinking at the expense of accountability and priorities. For the Secret Service agents to make the news means someone royally, or, more appropriately, presidentially screwed up. But it’s probably no big deal, right? It’s not like agents have a very crucial job that requires sobriety while guarding the most famous house or the most powerful man in the world or anything.
These boozy agents bring to mind other screw-ups by the Secret Service. Therefore, in this mixed-up world of agents not being able to do their jobs very well, here is a review of some of the agency’s most embarrassing incidents, from the frightening to truly bizarre, where the supposed elite unit really blundered.
Anyone who ever visited Washington, D.C., or has seen picture of the White House should know there is a 7-foot 6-inch tall fence in front. Somehow, the barrier and agents patrolling the periphery failed to thrice stop fence jumpers in 2014 — on three separate occasions — from entering the White House grounds, first in March, again in September and, most recently, in October. No agents, save two security dogs kicked by the October fence jumper, were hurt in the incidents, though it remains disturbing they were able to vault the fence and enter the grounds at all.
In October 2013, a Connecticut woman led police and law enforcement on a mad dash through the Capitol that included her trying to ram her way into the White House through the driveway. She was thwarted by agents, but caused quite a stir with her uninvited appearance.
Agents were not as successful stopping now-divorced couple Michaele and Tareq Salahi, who entered a state dinner for then-Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh. The Salahis were discovered as party crashers, arrested by agents before the entrees arrived and caused no harm, except maybe for not bringing anything to the party — and being able to get into the same room as the guests who were actually invited to a state dinner. Though they were escorted from within feet of all-powerful world leaders before causing any mayhem, that the couple was able to enter the room and were looking to stay for dessert in the best-case scenario is really quite disturbing.
Trespassers and uninvited guests to 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. are external dangers. But drunken agents ramming barriers is not. To regain its tarnished reputation, the president’s protective posse needs to clear its name up by going back to the manual and acting more responsibly. In that light, here are a few pointers:
1. Please don’t order prostitutes to your hotel room while on duty guarding the president.
2. Don’t go out drinking and get behind the wheel if your job requires possibly taking a bullet for the president. If agents were drunk enough and did stumble into one, that could have the same effect, though sobriety is probably a better plan.
Incredibly the jackasses who got lit before going back to work is not the first time boozy agents have messed up royally after partying late into the night. Former agent Abraham Bolden, on his time at the Secret Service, described how personnel were out all night the night before John F. Kennedy’s fateful trip down a Dallas street in November 1963 and were part of the security detail only one car behind the assassinated president.
That is obviously the extreme example, but with the watchers acting irresponsibly, the safety of the president and First Family clearly needs to be tightened up or we risk the recurrence of another catastrophe.
Noah Zuss is a reporter for TheBlot Magazine.