The drip, drip, drip of bad news just keeps raining down on the United States Secret Service.
The latest: a Secret Service agent provided details of President Obama’s schedule several days prior to the President’s campaign stops becoming public, potentially putting the President at risk.
Citing "multiple sources inside the Romney presidential campaign," the news web site insidesources.com reports:
"In the closing weeks of the 2012 campaign, a Secret Service agent was on the ground in a key swing state to coordinate security ahead of several campaign stops by the President. The agent, who was married, made advances towards a Romney campaign staff member....
"In one particular incident at a bar in late October 2012, the Secret Service agent, who had a number of drinks during the meeting, unprompted and in an apparent attempt to impress one of the staffers, began providing details of President Obama’s schedule. The information included times and locations of the President’s events in the final days of the election."
This was not only helpful to the Romney campaign but could have provided information useful to an attacker.
In a more recent incident, according to Bloomberg News, a man posing as a member of Congress gained access to a secure backstage area for Obama’s appearance at a Congressional Black Caucus Foundation awards dinner.
Bullets hitting the White House presidential residence area, an armed security contractor with a criminal record allowed to ride in an elevator with the President, the recent fence-jumper who made it well inside the White House before an off-duty agent tackled him, scandals involving prostitutes in Colombia and three agents assigned to guard Obama in the Netherlands sent home after a night of heavy drinking (one was found passed out in a hotel hallway), a celebrity-seeking couple allowed to enter a state dinner – these are just the most notorious of recent incidents.
It didn't take long for Secret Service director Julia Pierson to lose her job, a quick response to the most recent failings by the agency called for by Democrats and Republicans alike.
Meanwhile, experts and observers look for causes and needed remedies.
"Sources inside and outside the administration say many problems such as low morale, a leadership crisis and a culture of covering up mistakes can be traced back 11 years to when the Secret Service was pulled out of the Treasury Department and absorbed into the sprawling new Department of Homeland Security, where it had to compete for turf and money," Reuters reports. "Even as the agency's workload has mushroomed, its manpower levels stagnated and its funding increases have failed to keep pace with growth in overall federal spending in the past decade.... "
That bureaucratic change in the wake of the 9/11 terrorist attacks "would throw a cloak of secrecy over the Secret Service’s financial needs, performance and areas in need of improvement," writes YahooNews politics reporter Meredith Shiner. "Henceforth, public information about what was happening at the Secret Service would be much harder to find, bursting into view only when there was a failure or an embarrassing scandal."
The agency has been hammered with failure and embarrassing scandal, leading now to internal investigation, vigorous congressional probing, and a new interim director – retired Secret Service agent Joseph Clancy, former head of the Presidential Protective Division of the Secret Service.
Dan Emmett, a retired Secret Service agent and former CIA intelligence officer who spent two tours of duty on the Presidential Protective Division and four years on the Counter Assault Team, says change has to start – but not stop – at the top.
"There are too many incompetent managers who want the title, pay and perks of management while performing no duties of leadership," Mr. Emmett wrote in a Washington Post op-ed column earlier this year. "The Secret Service may not admit it, but its promotion system is primarily designed to move the best-liked people, not necessarily the best-qualified, into managerial positions. Much like in a college fraternity, a small group of senior agents votes on who will be promoted. These decisions are based as much on office politics, popularity and political correctness as the abilities of those being considered for upward mobility."
While many officials – including Obama – laud agents who spend long hours on the job, many of them putting their lives on the line, others site laxity (some of those involved in the Colombia prostitute scandal were supervising agents) and a failure to fully appreciate the threat. It's been noted that some agents hadn't even been born yet when former President Ronald Reagan was shot and nearly killed by attempted assassin John Hinckley, Jr., less than three months after he had taken office in 1981.