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Secret Service needs reform
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Secret Service director Julia Pierson resigned last Wednesday following bipartisan calls for her resignation. Her abrupt departure came on the heels of her Capitol Hill testimony on egregious security failures that put the safety of the president and his family in jeopardy.
The Secret Service has suffered serious security breaches and scandals under President Obama, dating back to 2009, when an uninvited Virginia couple managed to crash Obama’s first State Dinner.
In November 2011, a man with a semiautomatic rifle parked in front of the White House and fired several shots at the building. Reportedly, a Secret Service supervisor mistook the gunshots for car backfire!
In April 2012, eight Secret Service agents doing advance work in Colombia for President Obama’s trip to a summit there, lost their jobs after allegations some of them partied too hearty and one may have consorted with a prostitute.
These incidents occurred under director Mark Sullivan, whom President Obama replaced in March 2013 with Julia Pierson. Despite her vows to improve the conduct and performance of the Secret Service, their lapses have continued and gotten worse on her watch.
Last March, three Secret Service agents responsible for protecting President Obama in Amsterdam were sent home after a night of drinking. One of the agents was allegedly “passed out drunk in a hallway.”
Last month, two even more chilling Secret Service security lapses occurred within three days. On Sept. 16, a security contractor with a criminal record and a concealed weapon was allowed on an elevator with President Obama in Atlanta. When he used his cellphone to video Obama, the Secret Service fired him. Reportedly, Obama was not informed of this incident.
On Sept. 19, an armed intruder jumped the White House fence, raced across the lawn, overpowered a female Secret Service agent inside the North Portico entrance, and made his way deep into the White House, before finally being being tackled by an off-duty Secret Service agent. How he made it that far, through multiple rings of security, boggles the mind. If one intruder could do that, imagine what havoc a well-trained enemy assault team could wreak on the White House and the First Family.
The larger question now is “How did a once highly respected Secret Service unit, charged with protecting the President of the United States, sink so low in recent years?”
The answer to that question, including its implications for presidential security will not come from “internal investigations” by the Secret Service or the White House. Substantive reform seldom occurs from within bureaucracies.
Instead, we need an external, expert, and independent inquiry that focuses on what has gone wrong with this elite unit in recent years, and how to make it right again.
Meanwhile, why does the Secret Service have lower physical strength standards for female recruits than for male recruits? Shouldn’t the standards be the same, given the life and death nature of their duties?
Retired Army Col. Thomas B. Vaughn can be reached at