Secret Service: How a Woman Got to be In Charge

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The United States Secret Service has for a year been under the direction of a woman, the first since its inception 150 years ago. How did that happen?

PiersonWell, right up until April of this year many of its agents and high ranking officials have acted like occupants of National Lampoon’s Animal House, whose  exploits eventually cause them to be placed on “double-secret probation,” until finally, they are kicked out of school.

That’s pretty much what happened to some highly skilled USSS agents. They were accepting American taxpayer’s money as wages for  breaking curfew, getting drunk, taking girls to their rooms, and playing fraternity style pranks, (most notably from 2005 to 2013).

The highly publicized fiasco in Columbia in 2012 where agents violated the department’s code of ethics by hiring prostitutes, and engaging in alcohol binges and disorderly conduct made an international fool of the United States’ most elite police force.

By the time the investigation was over a bunch of agents were no longer walking with their former swagger due to being fired by the agency. Tragically, they lost their bragging rights and sex appeal.

(Fortunately for President Obama, the prostitutes and drunkenness didn’t pose any real threat to his security because the boys got all the shenanigans out of the way,  and deleted information from their Blackberrys, before he arrived. Then someone tattled to the U.S. Embassy. So, agents were flown out of Columbia and put on time-out until a lot of money could be spent finding out who did what to whom.)pierson2

Then in 2013, The USSS 22nd Director, Mark Sullivan, retired with his tail between his legs and his pants on fire over his agents’ stunts and his own contradictory testimonies. The jig was up.

What was President Obama to do? He had an undisciplined organization full of booze loving, ho hiring sharp shooters causing problems on three continents, if you count what happened in China.

According to Elaine Kamarck, a lecturer in public policy at the Harvard Kennedy School of Government, who has worked in five Democratic presidential campaigns and in the Clinton/Gore White House, a woman is the answer to the problem.

Kamarck said, in an article published by CNN in 2012, “When the culture in need of change is a macho culture where good old-fashioned debauchery and “boys being boys” is OK as long as no one gets caught — the solution is pretty straightforward: Hire more women.” 

Viola! One year later, enter Julia Pierson, Sullivan’s replacement, and the first ever female Director of the SS.  She is charged with raising the bar for agents’ conduct.

Darn it if agents in Amsterdam, Netherlands didn’t further humiliate the Secret Service again this past April, before Pierson had made it to her first anniversary.

The Washington Post put it more eloquently:

For an agency still trying to restore its reputation two years after a highly publicized sex scandal, the incident in the Netherlands brought fresh embarrassment and renewed public scrutiny. Some in Congress have cited the spectacle as further evidence that the Secret Service has failed to eliminate a frat-boy culture marked by lax discipline and little accountability.

But this time, no prostitutes were involved; no disputes over paying for services rendered. And only three agents, instead of 11, were flown home, topped with dunce hats and put on administrative leave. Progress! Under a female director.

(Probably it was the hotel maid who had to step over the inebriated U.S. presidential body guard unconscious in the hallway. He just couldn’t make it to his room where he would have been able to sleep it off in private, avoiding the chain of events leading to a humiliating return home, disciplinary action and bad press.)

Pierson’s new and improved policy spells out the do’s and don’ts, eliminating the need for good judgment, only compliance.

Apparently Agent Netherlands hadn’t gotten the memo about Pierson’s zero tolerance policy. Maybe he ditched the new training on “enhanced ethics and integrity”–regular old ethics and integrity being no longer valid in this world of blurred lines.

Brother, no wonder there’s a need for  a micro-manager’s handbook. These guys don’t know it’s bad form to be found face down in a pool of vomit hours before the president arrives?

And no wonder the President called them “knuckleheads” during his guest appearance on Late Night with Jimmy Fallon. Typical understatement by Mr. Obama.

My  question is Why has the USSS been allowed to be so slack when the IRS, BLM, EPA and NSA have been operating with impeccable honesty and integrity?

The answer? From John Magaw, former Director of the Secret Service, “There are always going to be those who are a little slow to get with the program.”

Oh, I see.

THBby T.M. Burroughs

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