Wednesday, October 1, 2014








(Wednesday October 1, 2014 Washington, DC)  There are no greater spectacles in this town than Congressional hearings that follow closely on the heels of a scandal.  Congressmen and Senators sit like an assembly of morally supreme inquisitors gifted with the wisdom of the ages toiling on behalf of the public good while pretending to investigate the scandal du jour while a string of “witnesses” are called before them to  be scrutinized and excoriated for errors of commission and omission.  The august panel is actually composed of some of the most corrupt, self-serving sleaziest politicos in the country.  Yesterday’s villain was U.S. Secret Service Director Julia Pierson called on to address a recent incident in which a man scaled a fence and entered the White House.  Director Pierson said that such an intrusion was “unacceptable" and told the congressional committee that she takes "full responsibility."  Good, she should take full responsibility for such an egregious breach of White House security.   But, some of the very same Congress members who grilled her during the hastily called House Oversight Committee have dirty, soiled hands in the growing dysfunction of the Secret Service.  Congress has repeatedly denied a higher budget for the Secret Service and have themselves been guilty of impeding the Service’s capabilities.  If there was even a marginally productive and engaged Congress here actually carrying out their oversight obligations as our Constitution mandates, perhaps there would not be such widespread dysfunction ineptitude and unaccountability as there exists in the massive federal bureaucracy.

Director Pierson was unable to survive the controversies as more details emerged about serious lapses in the Presidential security detail.  Late yesterday it was revealed that a private security contractor with a felonious history was on the same elevator as President Obama while he was visiting the CDC in Atlanta last week.  This private contractor had a loaded firearm on his person which is a breach of such proportions that Pierson’s tenure as the Service’s Director was no longer tenable.  Given the fact that President Obama has received three times as many death threats than any other president in history made these huge lapses of security at the White House and with the Presidential Protective Detail all the more alarming.  She spoke with the President by phone earlier today and submitted her resignation to the Director of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), Jeh Johnson, under whose sprawling bureaucratic domain the Secret Service has been part of since the founding of the DHS in 2002. 


In some law enforcement circles and the public’s conscience the Secret Service has always been highly regarded and respected.  The men and women who literally place themselves in harm’s way, willing to take a bullet for the president, any member of the “first family” or whatever dignitary  they are assigned to, have commanded a level of respect consummate with their assigned and vital mission.   It was only after the assassination of President John F. Kennedy that the “modern” Secret Service was born. That death of a president, a president like every other they were responsible to protect ushered in a new approach in their core mission of providing an iron clad protective bubble for the president of the United States.

In the morbid, shameful wake of the assassination of JFK, the Secret Service responded by creating a new breed agency staffed by a new breed of agents.  The Secret Service became the forerunners tactically and operationally with a renewed mission to never again allow a president to be vulnerable to an assassin’s bullet or any other lethal threat. 

In retrospect we see just how innocent we were as a society when JFK was shot and killed as he sat in a convertible limousine on that bright and sunny Texas November afternoon.  There was no fault to be laid on the threshold of the Secret Service; it just wasn’t within anyone’s realm of thinking that such a tragic event could happen.  What impacted the Secret Service the most was that the sinister ambition of one man, Lee Harvey Oswald, could bring down a presidency.  Yes, to this day conspiracy theorists argue with the findings and final report of the Warren Commission.  We are all entitled to our own opinions but, in a city such as our nation’s Capital, secrets are hard to keep for a period of weeks let alone decades.  When JFK was transported to Parkland Hospital and the young trauma surgeons on duty realized the extent of the damage to President Kennedy’s head and brain they knew he would not survive even their most valiant efforts.  It was within hours after JFK had been pronounced dead that the “new” Secret Service was born.  Those in charge of the agency at the time made vows and committed themselves to a higher mission objective than they had been tasked before that dreadful day in Dallas.  And, with all due respect, they have performed admirably until just a few years ago.

Once a model for what a professional, federal security agency could do, within the past 5 years there has been one embarrassing incident after another with several of these incidents involving members of the Presidential detail and the first wave unit that scouts out the location the president is next planning to appear.  One episode involved a team of advance agents getting intoxicated and using the services of local prostitutes in South America.  One agent was so intoxicated that he passed out leaving his credentials and firearm unattended.  Several similar episodes have transpired each more disturbing than the one previous.


Aside from the presidential retreat in the mountains of Maryland, Camp David, the president travels to New York City more often than any other destination.  The Secret Service has a Field Office here, second in size only to that at the White House and combined Personnel Protective Detail.  In law enforcement it is never easy to share a jurisdiction with another agency; turf wars are not uncommon and simply working out a logistics protocol and providing security can become contentious debates.  Fortunately for NYPD, they have the best working relationship with the Secret Service outside of the Washington Metro Police and the other uniformed federal and local agencies that often create divisiveness and animus.  When the mission is as important as proving protection for the president and his family on the move be it to a vacation, a fundraiser of to deliver his annual address to the United Nations General Assembly as well as providing assistance to the security personnel accompanying all the other heads of state and foreign dignitaries, the most capable professional men and women are usually assigned to those tasks. But, this is easier said than done and there are few NYPD Officers from the ESU, Intel Bureau and other Units who have not witnessed the hubris of the Secret Service.  No agency no matter how well trained and equipped, no matter how lofty their mandate knows New York City anywhere near as well as the MOS of NYPD.  It is Our City. 

There have been disagreements (to be polite) of legendary proportions between top operation and command Brass of NYPD with their Secret Service “counterparts”.  It was not uncommon to have a Secret Service agent be assigned to a delegation protection unit during his or her first in a lifetime visit to Our City.  So overwhelmed and distracted by all the stimuli in this environment there have been breaches of security that, if not for the timely intervention of well-seasoned NYPD Officers, there could have very well been an international crisis to deal with.



In defense of the Secret Service, they have been victimized by shrinking budgets, stagnant wages as compared to other law enforcement agencies where than can be hired, a fairly large turnover rate either by attrition or choice.  Complacency in an organization particularly one with the once rigorous standards of the Secret Service is a slow death.  It leads to over-looking important matters they see as smaller, a lack of cohesion and trust among agents and generally a pervasive infection of low morale. The Congressional charade played itself out with all the usual suspects preening and pontificating into the TV cameras while expressing the proper blend of outrage, righteousness, and self-satisfaction.  Director Pierson’s resignation was inevitable and placing an “acting director” until a proper candidate is appointed will not do much systemically to an organization that has drifted so far from their core mission that lives were in danger.

We are living essentially in America on a “full time war-footing”.  The world has never before been so riddled with upheaval and widespread death, with conflicts, disease, and oppression.  We have been engaged with radical extremists by whatever name they chose to call themselves since al Qaeda attack America on September 11, 2001.  Perhaps it is this overlay of a world gone mad superimposed on the failings of the Secret Service that make all the awful breaches that much more chilling, reprehensible and frightening.  We know that any and every terrorist group or lone wolf watches our news as a regular matter of fact.  They use CNN, BBC, websites and other sources with which to gather intelligence to be used against us. 

One can only imagine the repercussions if the White House intruder, Omar J. Gonzalez, a 42 year old Iraq war veteran was not apprehended by the coincidence of an off duty Secret Service Officer tackled him far into the Green Room.  What if Gonzalez had instead and run up the stairs, which he passed, and entered the First Family’s private residence?  On November 11, 2011 another man, Oscar R. Ortega-Hernandez, shot seven rounds from a high powered rifle while he was in his parked car at a distance of 700 feet of the White House.  Four of those rounds stuck the window panes of the Family Residence but it was only four days later when a custodial staffer brought the broken windows to the attention of the Secret Service that anyone had realized what had happened.

That such incidents have been able to be perpetrated given the high alert rate our government and military are allegedly observing only serve to make them that much more outrageous.

The “Acting Director” Joseph Clancy who had a long career with the Secret Service working for four different presidents has to immediately investigate these recent breaches and move systematically to overhaul old protocols and essentially retrain all the agents assigned to the President and ultimately all the agents in the Service.  His task is no small fete and he will not have much, if any, Washington honeymoon with all the congressional and Senatorial sharks in the bloody water.  At this time all we can do his with him well.


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