Why The Secret Service Fiasco Shouldn’t Surprise Us

So Julia Pierson, the first female head of the Secret Service, is falling on her service revolver today and resigning as a result of the recent fiasco at the White House, in which an intruder got much further into the presidential mansion than any sensible person would think possible. You can understand how the Secret Service got lazy at the sight of unlikely intruders; after all, Obama made it much further into the White House than any sensible person would think possible.

Another Obama promise broken: The job obviously didn’t work out like the “Life of Julia” for Pierson. This Julia was brought in for politically correct reasons after some agents took their agency a little too far with hookers in South America a while back. I dissent a little from the outrage over this Omar Gonzalez fellow embarrassing the Secret Service, though it interesting to speculate whether the reaction would have ben different if Omar’s last name had been Abdullah or something. I suspect the rhetoric of reaction would have been more conflicted.

Two prior Secret Service lapses rank as much more serious scandals in my mind. First, the Secret Service told agents to “stand down” when some nut shot seven bullets into the White House a few months ago, and persisted in the fiction for several days that it was either a car backfiring, or crossfire from a gang shooting. Then we learn that the Secret Service allowed an ex-convict serving as an armed security guard at the CDC on to an elevator with the President. But if that wasn’t stupid enough, the agents involved apparently didn’t fill out an after-action report explaining the incident.

Why this ass-covering and slovenliness? Is it simply to be expected that every federal agency will sooner or later beclown itself? Possibly, but there may be another more fundamental reason. I suspect that one reason for the apparent decline in the performance and rectitude of the Secret Service may be related to its transfer from its historic home in the Treasury Department to the Department of Homeland Security. I hear stories that the culture of the Secret Service changed, and not for the better, after it was put inside a different—and highly problematic—bureaucratic structure. After all, DHS are the wonderfully bright people who bring you airport security lines. Has the Secret Service succumbed to the same “security theater” mentality as the airport directorate of DHS? It would explain a lot.

Prediction: Like airport security lines after the failed underwear bomber, the Secret Service is going to adapt in all kinds of stupid but visible ways to “show” that they’re being tougher on potential security threats to the President.  They’ll probably start by closing up Manhattan island completely next time Obama goes to a fundraiser.

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