Thursday, October 2, 2014

Secret Service SNAFU


Today Julia Pierson, the Director of the United States Secret Service, offered her resignation, and I accepted it. I salute her 30 years of distinguished service to the Secret Service and the Nation.

Today, I have also asked the Deputy Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro Mayorkas, aided by this Department’s General Counsel, to assume control and direction of the ongoing inquiry by the Secret Service of the fence jumping incident at the White House on September 19. Deputy Secretary Mayorkas should complete that review and submit findings to me by November 1, 2014.
Finally, I have also determined that scrutiny by a distinguished panel of independent experts of the September 19 incident and related issues concerning the Secret Service is warranted. The Panelists will be named shortly. By December 15, 2014, this panel will submit to me its own assessment and recommendations concerning security of the White House compound. I will also invite the panel to submit to me recommendations for potential new directors of the Secret Service, to include recommendations of individuals who come from outside the Secret Service. I will also request that the panel advise me about whether it believes, given the series of recent events, there should be a review of broader issues concerning the Secret Service. The security of the White House compound should be the panel’s primary and immediate priority.

It is worth repeating that the Secret Service is one of the finest official protection services in the world, consisting of men and women who are highly trained and skilled professionals prepared to put their own lives on the line in a second’s notice for the people they protect. Last week, the Secret Service was responsible for the protection of the President as well as 140 visiting heads of state or government as they convened at the United Nations General Assembly in New York City. Likewise, in August the Secret Service handled the protection of 60 world leaders as they convened in Washington, D.C. for the African Summit. As usual, the Secret Service executed these highly complex and demanding assignments without incident. There is no other protection service in the world that could have done this.

I have no desire to join in the Wingnut chorus or the blame game on the current state of the Secret Servic, still this is the second critical agency under the President’s purview to show a incomprehensible amount of rot. First there was the V.A. It failed after several tries to improve the quality of treatment for our wounded warriors, instead opting to cook the books. Now the Secret Service is shown to have an astounding amount of incompetence, slackness and a totally rotten upper management.

There was an obvious problem with the Secret Service way back in the beginning of Obama’s term with the White House Gate Crashers. Obama was supposed to be furious, but what happened after he, most likely, offered a few choice words that can not be repeated lest the Dignitas of the office be soiled? All the things that are happening now should have happened back then. And if something like this did happen back then, it failed to solve the issues with the Service.

I’m hearing that the decay of the Service took off when it was moved from Treasury to the ever sprawling DHS. Make sense to me, DHS was built to fail because Bush The Dumber did not want DHS in the first place. It doesn’t help that the Service has become a lap dog of the office is supposed to protect. Fundamental rules of security are being breached to smooth political operatives and staffers in the White House. When doors that should remain locked are left unlocked to make life easier for the WH staff that is a huge problem. “Sorry dude, dudette you got to go around, this door remains secure.” “Who are you, and what are you doing in this elevator? Get out.” “No, Mr. McDonough, we can not do that, will not do that, it’s too risky, it violates too many protocols, policies and procedures.”

And some of this is on the president or at least his staff. When those agents got in trouble in Columbia over a hooker bill, I repeat over a hooker bill, a big flashing light along with a loud klaxon should have been going off in the Office Of The White House. Congress should have been all over that mess demanding reform. The agents in question got tossed under the bus, but nothing like the overview that is happening now. No, a guy had to jump the White House fence.

Hello, the White House Fence does not do it’s primary job of keeping people the hell off the grounds?  Then the guy blasts through the grounds with no real issue and not one K-9 being released because, um, somebody might get hurt? So there is no real training followed or procedure to make sure the dog does not get confused in the scrum and become the toothy equivalent of friendly fire — fantastic. What do we have next? With a good head of steam built up our man bulls through a female agent. Let that sink in, an agent, as in one agent. A whole section of the White House has just one agent on duty with no back up to speak of. We know she had no back-up because the bad guy was able to “overpower” her. Once she was out of the picture our man got to do a little more dashing about before he gets nabbed by, wait for it, wait for it, an agent who had already clocked out for the day. Now tell me that the security at the White House is not seven shades of ugly.

Now if the White House detail suffers from chronic under staffing, low moral, laughable, out of date technology, and senior management that can not figure out that joint is being shot at, what is the rest of the department like? Oh, it’s officers are regularly getting sloppy, totally smashed, drunk; that’s nice. And when they are getting drunk in some places they are causing international incidents because they tried to fleece their rented bed mates. This is an institution gone soft as butter left out in the August sun. This is a part of government that has rotted through and through. And I can guess why.

The Service has gotten complacent, it’s in a very dangerous place because there is no institutional memory of the last successful penetration of its protective shield. That would be Ronald Regan. Regan literally took a bullet for that lapse, as did James Brady, a D.C. police man and a Secret Service agent. Turned out that the Secret Service screwed the pooch then too, most likely because previous incident was back in the time of Gerald Ford and the institutional memory of that event was a getting a little hazy. And in a continuing theme, just like the Security Service of the State Department, there are issues of under-staffing and underfunding of the agency. This is a one two punch to effectiveness of the Agency, loss of institutional memory causing a degradation of standards, plus lack of resources causing a further degradation.

As for a suggested fixes, I haven’t heard a coherent response from the TEA Party / Republican Bobbsey Twins , other than “If Obama gets whacked, it’s his own dang fault.” Well, that’s good to know, any solutions to offer? Privatize? Thanks for the stock answer and the attendant boilerplate, here are some nice parting gifts. Democrats? Hello? Please come out of your Fetal position, pull that thumb out of you mouth, and respond. I guess not. Mr. President, what do you have? A panel; any sense of urgency here Hamlet? Some guy with a knife just had an excellent misadventure in your home. Oh, you offered up the Director of the Secret Service as sacrifice to the angry Political Gods of the Potomac via the Worthy, Ancient Mysteries, and Ceremonies of the Bus Toss. Now that the most Holy, Sacred, and Magnanimous Bus has been appeased by bathing its wheels in the political blood of this most decorous and satisfying offering, what else do you have Mr President? Nothing,  just a game of administrative musical chairs and some fist banging and a bit of rah-rah for the lower orders for now, maybe more later? Lovely.

If the Federal Government can not protect its Chief Executive, and Head Of State there is a problem with more than just the Agency that has the job. This is a systemic failure. Neither the Congress nor the Executive is doing its job. Congress is not doing oversight, not being proactive and not even being reactive in a way that ensures follow through. The Executive is not doing its job, especially the White House Staff, it should not be asking for waivers of security procedures just for convenience sake. On the flip side the Agency has to have the spine to say no, to enforce policy and procedures. And this is not the first time we have seen this kind of process go down. Congress is failing because it is in the control of people who despise the whole idea of governance and of governing. The executive does seem rudderless, and Obama aloof, unwilling to get into the gears and get his hands dirty. He also seems to have a really bad feel for personalities. He keeps choosing Senior Management people who face pant spectacularly, Kathleen Sebelius, Eric Shinseki, Janet Napolitano come to mind. I also wonder where the Press was in all of this. The gate crashers and hooker incident were in the same time space, why did the press not dig a little deeper? Why are we only finding out now about the four day delay to investigate the shooting incident, and that it was the cleaning staff who found the evidence? We are getting one hell of a pile on now, but why did it take so long?

The rot goes a lot deeper than just the Secret Service and no one seems to want to get the damn termites under control. We keep having these chunks of our government fall upon our heads but pay no mind. Voter participation in off year elections is distressingly low. Pay to Play is the standard operating procedure, and in many states outright voter suppression is the order of the day. We just let the corruption go on a pace, letting knaves and outright crooks do the work of governance. But hey, Benghazi, Benghazi, Benghazi, am I right?
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