Every time I hear about one of these Secret Service scandals I heave a sigh of relief that it wasn't worse than it was, but still fear there will be a day where it will go the other way.
Last night the news broke that two Secret Service agents crashed through a barricade on the grounds of the White House after drinking with their friends in a bar on March 4th. Even more disturbing, those two were really high-ranking Secret Service officials, including the second-in-command on President Obama's personal security detail.
Today it just gets worse. Carol Leonnig at the Washington Post has been the go-to reporter on these incidents. From her report filed earlier today:
The incident unfolded on a hectic night for Secret Service officers guarding the White House.
About 10:25 that night, a Pennsylvania woman hopped out of her car at the southeast entrance of the White House on 15th Street NW and threw a package wrapped in a green shirt at the security post. She yelled at a police officer: “It’s a bomb,” according to a police report obtained by The Post.
Police quickly secured the area with tape and called an explosives inspection team to check the package for potential explosive materials or other dangers.
But shortly before 11 p.m., the two high-ranking Secret Service agents returning from a work party at a Chinatown bar about eight blocks from the White House drove their government car through the crime scene. According to people familiar with the incident, they drove through police tape and then hit a temporary barricade, using the car to push aside some barrels. An agency official said Thursday that the car was not damaged.
The episode was caught on surveillance video. Investigators who have reviewed the tape of the incident say it is not clear if the pair drove very close to or over the suspicious item wrapped in the shirt, one law enforcement official said.
Obviously it wasn't a bomb, but what if it had been? What the hell is the problem over at the Secret Service anyway?
Marc Ambinder says the agency has a drinking problem.
The Secret Service has a drinking problem. It's much worse than any other cultural deficit the elite agency has. It's more widespread than sexism, certainly, and the other isms that have been attached to the agency since the prostitution scandal in Cartagena, Colombia. It's something that every journalist who covers the White House kind of knows, intuitively, if they've ever traveled with the president. Pick your favorite White House correspondent and ask him or her whether agents on President George W. Bush's detail created problems at the Wild West saloon in Waco. One former White House scribe told me that although reporters regularly witnessed agents drinking heavily before shifts, "we just assumed they could control themselves. After all, they were the ones who were the most responsible of all of us."
It seems as though the myth of the Secret Service is just that -- a myth. For people like me who grew up in the post-JFK assassination era, it's almost unthinkable that these agents would be so irresponsible with the security of the President, First Family, and others in the White House, no matter who the occupant is.
Yet, here we are again reading another report about how an investigation was botched and security was compromised so a couple of agents could go drink with their pals.