Quotes of the day

STATEMENT BY SECRETARY JOHNSON ABOUT THE U.S. SECRET SERVICE

Today Julia Pierson, the Director of the United States Secret Service, offered her resignation, and I accepted it. I salute her 30 years of distinguished service to the Secret Service and the Nation…

I have also determined that scrutiny by a distinguished panel of independent experts of the September 19 incident and related issues concerning the Secret Service is warranted. The Panelists will be named shortly. By December 15, 2014, this panel will submit to me its own assessment and recommendations concerning security of the White House compound. I will also invite the panel to submit to me recommendations for potential new directors of the Secret Service, to include recommendations of individuals who come from outside the Secret Service. I will also request that the panel advise me about whether it believes, given the series of recent events, there should be a review of broader issues concerning the Secret Service. The security of the White House compound should be the panel’s primary and immediate priority.

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After sleeping on Secret Service Director Julia Pierson’s testimony, Rep. Elijah Cummings, the most senior Democrat on the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, had a change of heart and is now calling for Pierson’s resignation.

“The president is not well served…I think this lady has to go – Ms. Pierson,” Cummings, D-Maryland, said during a radio interview with Roland Martin on NewsOneNow this morning. ”There has to be drastic changes.”

“I’m convinced that she is not the person to lead that agency. My trust has eroded,” Cummings later told Diane Rhem during another interview today on WAMU. “This is supposed to be the No. 1 protective agency in the world, guarding the most protected person in the world, the most protected house in the world. And it appears they are not doing a very good job.”

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House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, announced Wednesday he backs a plan for the House to establish a “blue ribbon commission” to review the U.S. Secret Service, which is under intense scrutiny over recent security breaches…

“Given the Secret Service’s proud history and the duties it is charged with, we are right to expect nothing but candor and clarity from its leaders, particularly at a time when Americans are as aware as ever that we live in a dangerous world. Unfortunately, the Secret Service director’s appearance before the Oversight & Government Reform Committee has left us with more questions than answers. Already, we have learned of a prior security breach in Atlanta that she failed to mention. The more we discover, the clearer it becomes that the Secret Service is beset by a culture of complacency and incompetence. As such, the president must make a swift determination on whether the agency is being well-served by its current leadership. Moreover, I fully support Chairman McCaul’s plan for a top-to-bottom, independent review of the agency. The courageous men and women who put their lives in harm’s way every day for the Secret Service deserve the best possible leadership and a culture worthy of their sacrifices.”

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Rep. Jason Chaffetz, R-Utah, angrily noted that the Secret Service had issued a self-congratulatory press release, praising their “tremendous restraint” and “discipline” when in truth they had put together a catastrophic security failure.

“If one person can hop that fence and run unimpeded all the way into an open door at the White House, don’t praise them for ‘tremendous restraint,’ ” he said, adding that agents erred in failing to use “overwhelming” and “lethal force” quickly under the circumstances.

Add to these the Washington Examiner’s scoop Tuesday of another Secret Service breach during Obama’s trip to Atlanta last month, in which a man with a gun rode in an elevator with President Obama during his visit to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, plus earlier scandals involving agents drunk and hiring prostitutes while on overseas visits with the president, and the picture that emerges is of a Secret Service abysmally run, unaccountable, sloppy and hostile to whistleblowers.

This is completely unacceptable. The Secret Service has no margin for error in its mission of protecting the president. Pierson must be replaced and others responsible for these far-reaching problems should also be fired. The entire force needs a thorough overhaul of its training and procedures before Obama can be guaranteed the security that every US president (and the public) should be able to take for granted.

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[W]hile agents and uniformed officers are for the most part brave and dedicated, Secret Service management perpetuates a culture that punishes those who point out deficiencies and rewards with promotions those who cover up problems and foster the myth that the agency is invincible.

“If you dare voice your opinion and report something bad, you are mocked,” says a current agent who asked not to be identified for fear of reprisals…

Dishonesty is not only tolerated but encouraged: Rather than allowing time for physical fitness and refresher firearms training, management asks agents to fill out their own physical fitness and firearms requalification test results to show they have met the required standards. When members of Congress visit the Secret Service’s training facility in Laurel, Maryland, the Secret Service puts on impressive supposedly spontaneous scenarios that, according to agents, are actually secretly rehearsed beforehand…

On a regular basis, to appease White House or campaign staffs, Secret Service officials order agents to ignore basic security rules and let people into events without being put through a magnetometer or metal detector. That’s like letting passengers into a commercial airliner without metal detection screening. Terrorist groups like ISIL would like nothing better than to assassinate Obama. Five terrorists could come into the White House with grenades and wipe him out.

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[P]rivately, some Democratic officeholders and strategists have complained that the episode contributes to a broader impression that the Obama administration’s competence has come under fire on a variety of fronts, including last year’s botched rollout of Mr. Obama’s health care program, the breakdown of services at the Veterans Affairs Department and the handling of a series of international crises…

“This is an opportunity to make it seem like nobody’s in charge in the Obama administration, even though it’s almost certainly not the case that political appointees could have done anything to change the facts in this situation,” said Matt Bennett, a White House aide under President Bill Clinton and now vice president of Third Way, a political group. “I’m not surprised that they’re doing this.”…

“I do think for a lot of Republican congressmen, this is a twofer,” said Erik Smith, a former House Democratic aide and a campaign adviser to Mr. Obama. “The Secret Service may be in the line of fire, but they’re not the only target.”

Not every Democrat sees it that way. Paul Begala, no stranger to partisan warfare as a longtime adviser to Mr. Clinton, said Republican lawmakers were asking the right questions out of genuine concern. “This is totally on the level,” he said. “They’re acting like real human beings and patriotic Americans.”

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[A]ll Americans should care about protecting our president — regardless of party. That’s common decency, and should go without saying. I would suggest it’s also correct to pray for our leaders…

First, the problems plaguing the Secret Service could impact the next president, who might be a Republican. But … even if Republicans cared nothing about this president’s life (a point I would suggest is both wrong and cynical) — the worst possible thing that could happen to Republicans would be for some tragedy to befall this president.

I would suggest that conservative militias should begin voluntarily policing the fence around the White House, immediately. There is no border more important to protect, and there is nothing that would potentially do more harm to the cause of conservatism than for some horrible thing to happen to this president. Even if you put humanity and common decency aside, conservatives have a greater incentive than anybody to ensure his safety and security.

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[T]he truth is that it’s awfully hard to blame this on Obama, no matter how much you dislike him. There may be no agency where the president’s management abilities matter less than with the Secret Service. Unlike almost every other agency, they aren’t carrying out his policies. They have a very specific mission. The president can tell government employees how to administer Medicare or distribute clean energy grants, but if he started instructing the Secret Service where to position their agents at the White House, we’d say he should leave it to the experts…

One of the Secret Service’s cultural issues that people are now talking about is that agents apparently didn’t feel comfortable pointing out problems to their superiors, because they felt doing so could affect their careers. Which would mean that the Service is like pretty much every other government agency and private company or organization on earth…

The truth is that we need periodic controversies like this one. Even the most professional agencies are going to have their share of incompetence and screw-ups, and the light of public attention can bring needed change. So far, Republicans and Democrats seem equally angry about the Secret Service, for the most part anyway. Maybe this will prove to be a scandal whose primary result is not partisan bluster but actual reform. Imagine that.

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If not the Secret Service, who? Whom can we trust to do a decent job in DC?

This fiasco — and the news, long covered up, that the White House was hit by several bullets back in 2011 — isn’t just a problem for the Secret Service and its present management.

This seems to crystallize a more general feeling that stretches from Washington to the far reaches of the globe — the feeling that things are spinning wildly out of control and there’s no one even minimally competent enough at the highest reaches of American power to calm the gathering storm.

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