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The troubled culture of the Secret Service

I’ve been scratching my head over the degeneration of the Secret Service, which has been in trouble quite a few times in recent years.  Ronald Kessler, a leading critic of the agency (but generally a supporter of the agents) has a critique of what he calls “a troubled culture” at Time:

As reported in my book The First Family Detail, while agents are brave and dedicated, Secret Service management perpetuates a culture that condones laxness and cutting corners. Under pressure from White House political staffs or presidential campaign staffs, Secret Service management tells agents to let people into events without magnetometer or metal detector screening. Assassins concealing grenades or other weapons could theoretically enter an event and easily assassinate the president or a presidential candidate. When it comes to firearms requalification and physical fitness, the Secret Service either doesn’t allow agents time to fulfill the requirements or asks agents to fill out their own test scores.

All this has led to poor morale and a high turnover rate. Tired agents and officers are forced to work long overtime hours, contributing to the sort of inattention that took place when Gonzalez scaled the White House fence. The Secret Service has refused to update its sensors around the White House with the latest technologically advanced devices for detecting intrusions and weapons of mass destruction. Its arrogance extended to leaving the doors to the White House unlocked on the presumption that its personnel could handle any threat.

Kessler directly links these lax standards, and the fatigue of overworked agents, to their sub-par handling of the recent White House fence jumper.  He suggests that only dynamic new leadership with “a fresh perspective” could shake up the Secret Service and change “the culture that fosters corner cutting and punishes agents who question it.”

He’s got a disturbing quote from one of those agents: “We don’t have enough people or the equipment to do protection the way they advertise we do, and how we have not had an incident up to this point is truly amazing – a miracle.”  By “incident” he obviously doesn’t mean a worrisome close shave like the fence-jumper.

That all sounds distressingly familiar in this age of face-plant Big Government.  How many agencies don’t have lax standards, paperwork games, and funding blown on just about everything except their core missions?

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