After yet another scandal, what can be done to fix the Secret Service?

High-profile scandals have diminished the Secret Service's reputation in recent years. But two reports offer insight into how to ensure the agency is providing adequate protection. 

Charles Dharapak/AP/File
In this May 23, 2012, file photo, then-U.S. Secret Service Director Mark Sullivan testifies on Capitol Hill in Washington. A new congressional report says there have been 143 security breaches or attempted breaches at facilities secured by the Secret Service in the last 10 years. The House Oversight and Government Reform Committee report says the Secret Service is an "agency in crisis" after a series of high-profile embarrassments over several years, including multiple security breaches involving President Barack Obama and the White House.

A former US Secret Service agent was sentenced to six years in prison Monday for stealing electronic currency while investigating an online black market.

After gaining access to Silk Road as part of an investigative task force, Shaun Bridges stole over $800,000 in Bitcoin and attempted to pin the theft on a cooperating witness, ultimately threatening the witness’ life. Mr. Bridges admitted to money laundering and obstruction charges during trial in August.

"This, to me, is an extremely serious crime consisting of the betrayal of public trust by a federal law enforcement agent," the judge, who passed the sentence Monday, told the Associated Press.

This is just one smudge in a series of scandals overshadowing the Secret Service (USSS) in recent years. In 2012, a prostitution scandal in Colombia widely covered by the media diminished the Service’s reputation. And a report released last week by the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform exposed more than 143 security breaches at agency-supervised facilities.

Notable breaches detailed in the report included:

a November 11, 2011, incident where an individual fired several shots at the White House from a semiautomatic rifle;

a September 16, 2014, incident at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta, Georgia, where an armed contract security guard with a violent arrest history rode in an elevator with President Obama and later breached the President’s security formation;

and a March 4, 2015, incident where two intoxicated senior USSS officials— including a top official on the President’s protective detail—interfered with a crime scene involving a bomb threat just outside the White House grounds.”

Those investigating the agency point to several factors that have led to reduced effectiveness. “Poor leadership and a dysfunctional workplace have created a culture within the Secret Service that led to major security lapses, employee misconduct and low employee satisfaction and commitment scores,” the Partnership for Public Service said. Furthermore, resource reductions and “unprecedented staffing shortages” have added to agency pressures.

Deemed an “agency in crisis,” the Service has had three different directors in the past two years, and staff has dropped by more than 50 people, marking the lowest numbers in a decade despite recommendations to increase hiring.

The House Committee’s report also highlighted “significant cuts imposed by the Budget Control Act of 2011, systemic mismanagement at USSS that has been unable to correct these shortfalls, and declining employee morale leading to attrition.”

A separate report on USSS was completed in December 2014 by the US Secret Service Protective Mission Panel, a panel formed in response to the Sept. 19, 2014 incident, “when a lone individual leapt over the White House fence, onto the North Lawn, and ultimately into the White House itself.”

This report, too, found several issues needing immediate attention including a training regimen “diminished far below acceptable levels,” a lack of resources, limitations on personnel and “an organization starved for leadership that rewards innovation and excellence and demands accountability.”

However, this report offered suggestions for change, while still acknowledging the work of the agency. “Facing constant threats and charged with guarding the world's most powerful and visible head of state and the most accessible executive mansion of any large nation, the Secret Service has an extraordinary track record of success,” wrote the panel members in the report’s executive summary. “This is not to say that the Secret Service does not make mistakes. But we owe the agents, officers, and line personnel of the Secret Service a debt of gratitude.”

With multiple reports, USSS has many recommendations to restore their tarnished reputation. This is an important time for the Secret Service, as they are providing protection not only for the president, but a handful of 2016 presidential candidates as well. 

Fixing USSS could mean bringing in a new leader from the outside, suggests the USSS Protective Mission Panel. Increasing the agency's budget, hiring additional employees, and increasing staff training would allow the agency to better protect the nation. 

“We know special agents of the United States Secret Service as the silent figures around the President, but we tend to notice them only in the extraordinarily rare moments when they fail,” wrote the USSS Protective Mission Panel.

“As a nation, we should not fail to make prudent investments in personnel, technology, and leadership when the stakes are so high.” 

You've read  of  free articles. Subscribe to continue.
Real news can be honest, hopeful, credible, constructive.
What is the Monitor difference? Tackling the tough headlines – with humanity. Listening to sources – with respect. Seeing the story that others are missing by reporting what so often gets overlooked: the values that connect us. That’s Monitor reporting – news that changes how you see the world.

Dear Reader,

About a year ago, I happened upon this statement about the Monitor in the Harvard Business Review – under the charming heading of “do things that don’t interest you”:

“Many things that end up” being meaningful, writes social scientist Joseph Grenny, “have come from conference workshops, articles, or online videos that began as a chore and ended with an insight. My work in Kenya, for example, was heavily influenced by a Christian Science Monitor article I had forced myself to read 10 years earlier. Sometimes, we call things ‘boring’ simply because they lie outside the box we are currently in.”

If you were to come up with a punchline to a joke about the Monitor, that would probably be it. We’re seen as being global, fair, insightful, and perhaps a bit too earnest. We’re the bran muffin of journalism.

But you know what? We change lives. And I’m going to argue that we change lives precisely because we force open that too-small box that most human beings think they live in.

The Monitor is a peculiar little publication that’s hard for the world to figure out. We’re run by a church, but we’re not only for church members and we’re not about converting people. We’re known as being fair even as the world becomes as polarized as at any time since the newspaper’s founding in 1908.

We have a mission beyond circulation, we want to bridge divides. We’re about kicking down the door of thought everywhere and saying, “You are bigger and more capable than you realize. And we can prove it.”

If you’re looking for bran muffin journalism, you can subscribe to the Monitor for $15. You’ll get the Monitor Weekly magazine, the Monitor Daily email, and unlimited access to

QR Code to After yet another scandal, what can be done to fix the Secret Service?
Read this article in
QR Code to Subscription page
Start your subscription today