When the embarrassment that was the Secret Service sex scandal unraveled last April, there was a temptation to turn the report into a partisan focal point. But as Washingtonians in the District have known for years, the bad behavior of Secret Service members transcends party politics and any specific administration.
Traditionally, Secret Service agents have been viewed as the cowboys of Washington, D.C., a culture that has existed for years. A Freedom of Information Act document, recently made public, suggests that some agents flaunt their unprofessional behavior and illicit activities have been tolerated with a wink and a nod from their superiors, making them virtually untouchable.
But that attitude is now changing; thanks to the aforementioned 299-page report released over the weekend by the Department of Homeland Security’s inspector general, the Secret Service men’s disgraceful behavior is exposed to the world. According to Fox News, the log details accusations dating back to 2004, including everything from attempted rapes, indecent exposure, pornography (creating their own), and drunken stupors. Other serious reports cited Secret Service agents involved in wiretapping and embezzlement scandals.
Three months after the assassination of President Abraham Lincoln, the Secret Service was shaped as an elite assemblage of the country’s most respectable men, tasked with detecting fraud within the Treasury Department. According to SecretService.gov, the Secret Service men were such a loyal union that they voluntarily offered part-time protection to President Cleveland in 1894. By 1951, Secret Service agents were a permanent fixture in the protection of the country’s first family.
So how did we go from the nation’s finest to a fraternity of juvenile hooligans?
The servicemen’s “Animal House” reputation earned over recent years even continued while overseeing the yet-again vacationing Obamas in Martha’s Vineyard, per the latest reports. Local witnesses allege everything from wild parties to trashed home rentals and barroom brawls.
It’s not surprising that we have yet to hear official backlash from White House Press Secretary Jay Carney or the president himself. And don’t get your hopes up for any either. The Secret Service men know all the White House secrets. This close to November, the White House wouldn’t dare condemn the very people who have all the dirt on the current administration.
But alas, you can’t be a frat boy forever. It’s time for Secret Service officials to either grow up and act like professionals or face being removed from service.
To be clear, there are many respectable, loyal members of the Secret Service. I know some of these men personally. They are the ones who are faithful to their wives, devoted to their children, and who represent their country with integrity and honor. Unfortunately, respectable behavior is not the customary standard. There are good, diligent public servants who deserve to be promoted once the riff raff is given a pink slip. If Secret Service Director Mark Sullivan can’t do it, then maybe he needs the boot along with the rest of the delinquents.
The women who are married to Secret Service agents deserve respect both from their own husbands and from the agency that employs them. One agent’s wife told me years ago in normal conversation that throughout his career her husband has requested the night shifts when he traveled with the then-vice presidential detail. He did this not because he loves staying up all night but because he did not want to be a part of nor witness to the off-hours shenanigans in which his colleagues engaged. I am sure her husband wasn’t the only one uncomfortable, but yet no one said anything.
A family member told me that, as part of the advance team for Bush 41, it was common to see outrageous and inappropriate behavior by married, off-duty agents while on taxpayer-funded trips. No, this isn’t a new problem. However, the recent news stories have truly damaged the reputation of a group of men and women who should be our heroes.
Bottom line: the Secret Service needs to catch up with everyone else. Corporations and the military have had to get beyond their own “Madmen” past. Now it’s time for the Secret Service to grow up. If this problem is ignored, then the culture of misusing women and abusing power will go on, and the chance for reform will be squandered. The president, the taxpayers, and, most importantly, the wives back home deserve better. They can be better.