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Some concerned former Secret Service agents, fearing the agency they once proudly served has become a “frat boy hangout that makes mall cops look more professional,” blame transfer of the service to the Department of Homeland Security for the recent prostitution scandal that has tarnished the image of those who protect the President of the United States.
Capitol Hill Blue interviewed more than a dozen former agents and found widespread concern over the Secret Service’s fall from grace.
All – without exception – agreed to talk only under the condition that their names be withheld because of fears of reprisal from the agency they served.
“It’s not the same service,” says one former agent who retired after 25 years. “Training is lax, morale is down and recruiting standards are low.”
Former agents say the Secret Service is accepting applicants who “would have never made the cut” when the agency was part of the Treasury Department.
“Like all things involved with Homeland Security, the emphasis is on quantity, not quality,” says another former agent. “Some of these guys wouldn’t make the cut as mall cops let alone agents Presidential protective service.”
Most of the agents interviewed say they were not surprised that prostitutes were allowed into the rooms of members of the advance team for President Barack Obama’s recent visit to Columbia.
“I’ve heard too many tales of wild parties, dalliances with hookers and general screwing around,” said one. “Agents with hangovers are guarding the President. These men and women are impaired on the job. Something is going to happen because the Service has become amateur night.”
Most of those interviewed say the Secret Service is at its lowest point in morale since 1963 when agents guarding President John F. Kennedy partied and got drunk the night before he was assassinated in Dallas, Texas.
“The Service has forgotten the lessons of Dallas,” says one former agent. “We’re setting the stage for another disaster.”
The agents spoke with scorn about ousted Secret Service supervisor David Chaney, who bragged on his Facebook page about “checking out” former Vice Presidential candidate Sarah Palin while guarding her during the 2008 election campaign.
“Chaney was supposed to be looking for potential threats, not looking at her tits,” said one former agent. “Unfortunately, he’s not the exception nowadays. He’s the norm.”
Former agents say the Service has become “more political” since its transfer to the Department of Homeland Security and that promotions are based more on contacts than qualifications.
“It’s more ‘who you know’ than ‘what you know’ in the Service now,” says one.
In a way, says one former agent, the scandal that erupted in Columbia may be the best thing that could have happened to the Service.
“Instead of screwing up when someone is trying to take out the man, they were caught screwing in their rooms beforehand,” he said. “Not the best scenario but better than the alternative.”
With the Service wrapping up its internal investigation of the incident in Columbia, the scandal is far from over. Both the House and Senate have launched investigations, along with the DHS inspector general.
“Maybe the Service can restore its lost honor,” hopes one former agent.
The Secret Service and the Department of Homeland Security did not respond to requests for interviews in the preparation of this article.