Secret Service: Abysmal Character Fail

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The Secret Service website discusses Careers Driven by Integrity in the following:

The United States Secret Service culture is represented through the agency’s five core values: justice, duty, courage, honesty and loyalty. These values, and the Secret Service adage “Worthy of Trust and Confidence,” resonate with each man and woman who has sworn to uphold these principles. Not only do these values foster a culture of success, but they also hold each person to the highest standards of personal and professional integrity.

By now most of us are familiar with the recent lack of integrity shown by President Obama’s Secret Service advance team at the Hilton Cartagena in Colombia. At least 11 agents and several military officers have been implicated in using the services of as many as 21 prostitutes while at the Hilton. The agents and two supervisors were put on leave. As of this writing, three have been ousted and certainly the likelihood of more firings is possible. If one of the prostitutes had not raised a ruckus about being paid, this may not have come to light. For an agency like the Secret Service to have had conduct so unbecoming, goes against the very “Integrity” for which they claim to strive.

Clearly these agents knew the rules. According to Stephen Kohn, head of the National Whistle-blowers Center in Washington, “For Security clearance you have to have a high level of trust and not have associations or relationships that could compromise you. For the government, if you don’t pay your loans or have an affair, you are susceptible to blackmail and can lose your security clearance.” Anyone who would so blatantly violate these tenants shows an abysmal lack of character. They not only put themselves at risk, but the President and our national security.

Let me put this in perspective. I had applied for a job as an Investigator with the Pennsylvania Office of Inspector General (OIG). They called me in for an interview which lasted almost three hours. During that interview, I had to field difficult questions from six people in the hierarchy of OIG from across the state. After that they conducted a background investigation of me that lasted six months. They spoke with neighbors, friends, grilled my employers and did a credit check, among other things. And all of this for a state-level job, not even a federal-level career like the Secret Service. I was indeed hired, given a gold shield, and worked every day to live up to their standards. For me it was an honor, as it should have been for those Secret Service agents in Colombia.

I once met a former Secret Service agent who had served under Ronald Regan. More than once he told me that he “loved that man” and would have given his life for him. He described the job as intense, which I am sure is true. When Regan left office, this agent retired and became a carpenter. Never in all my conversations with him did he say anything about his time with the Secret Service other than what I have shared here. There are reasons they are called “Secret” Service.

The alleged behavior of the Secret Service agents in Colombia is not just an abysmal character fail. They potentially put the safety of our president and our national security at risk. For that, those agents who were at the Hilton Cartagena and were silently complicit or actively participating in alleged indiscretions should be fired, and the entire agency scrutinized.

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Posted in: Cher Duncombe, Columns
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About the Author:

Someone once told me, “Used-to-be’s don’t count.” I have pondered this often and find that they do count. We are the sum of our life experiences.
I used to be an English and Speech teacher. There will always be a part of me that wants to teach. I used to be an Investigator, first for the government and later in my own private investigations business.
I will always probe beneath the surface of issues and people, looking for the gem-like quality hidden in the text of words and personae. Today I am a writer and all of the used-to-be’s are part of the continuum of this journey. View My Profile

23 Comments on "Secret Service: Abysmal Character Fail"

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  1. avatar Larry Conley says:

    Cher,

    You are correct this incident shows widely shared character lapses or failings. It seems this sort of thing is epidemic in America in the twenty first century.

    This should not be a partisan issue, but I bet some will try to make it so.

    Perhaps we are moving rapidly into the twilight.

    Larry

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    • avatar Cher Duncombe says:

      Larry, it is already being politicized. Pundits from the Right are saying that it’s Obama’s fault because it happened on his watch. Well, heck, he’s the president and he has ‘people’ to do that! Let their heads roll. Maybe it is an epidemic, and maybe I am naive, though I still believe that honor and integrity exists. You just don’t do in Colombia what the Colombians do, at least when it comes to the services of prostitutes.

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      • avatar Larry Conley says:

        Cher,

        Senator Chuck Grassley is now demanding travel records for “White House staffers,” but he is not giving any explanation. As you say, it is already being politicized.

        I don’t think you are naive; I think you are, as you have been as long as I have known you, hopeful. My concern is that the divisiveness has reached a tipping point and we are seeing a mad scramble of so many to serve themselves first, last and always.

        The people who actually did the deeds in Columbia are culpable for their actions without question. The people who treat this as one more opportunity to pursue campaign advantage are likewise culpable for their behavior. Neither of these groups exhibit honor and integrity. Nor does either group serve the common good and the Republic they have sworn oaths to uphold.

        What a Bad Moon is rising!

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        • avatar Cher Duncombe says:

          Larry, “a Bad Moon” rising indeed. I have never seen it this ugly. The rhetoric, the innuendos, all of it is distasteful. I am “hopeful” but hanging by my thumbs.

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  2. As Larry said, this sort of thing is common. I know I watched a film recently about the bailed out bankers having a large part of their budget going towards ‘entertainment’ expenses such as prostitutes, can’t remember the name of the film but Goldman Sachs spent millions on these expenses and they were well aware what these expenses were for. There was also this recent story about Goldman Sachs… http://www.nytimes.com/2012/04/01/opinion/sunday/kristof-financers-and-sex-trafficking.html

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    • avatar Cher Duncombe says:

      Garry, I expect this from bankers and politicians. I really do. Power corrupts, and all that. But the Secret Service can be and should be held to a higher level of accountability. I mean, they were in Colombia! How did they know that these women were not (pardon me here) undercover operatives?

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      • You are right enough Cher, politicians and bankers do have the mark of shame but it seems these secret service agents fall below when it comes to intelligence.

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  3. avatar Larry Conley says:

    The National Journal just published this article -- “In Nothing We Trust”.

    Most people seem to think our institutions are failing us on a pervasive scale.

    http://www.nationaljournal.com/features/restoration-calls/in-nothing-we-trust-20120419?mrefid=mostViewed

    To quote one of my favorite movies, “That good old American do or die spirit, we better get it back; we better get it back damn fast!”

    Hookers are the least of our problems. We have people in positions of influence and power who rigorously follow the vile maxim of the masters of humankind as stated by Adam Smith more than 230 years ago: “All for ourselves and nothing for anyone else.”

    This is not a sound principle for Americans or any humane human beings.

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    • avatar Cher Duncombe says:

      There are a lot of cogent points in that article, Larry. Maybe this is the time of the mighty toppling, much as Rome did. Greece seems to be toppling…again. It’s the Almighty Dollar that appears to be the god of choice. If that’s the case, hold on ’cause “it’s going to be a bumpy ride” down.

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  4. avatar Judie says:

    Let us remember that the Secret Service serves ALL presidents, because that is their job. They don’t even have to like the party in office, but they are still required to do what they have been trained to do. This sort of thing could have been going on for decades and we just never knew about it until now. Aside from the fact that their behavior is disgusting, the money that has been spent, money that could be used to pay down the national debt, is obscene. God only knows how much money this country could save if there was ever any REAL oversight in EVERY department of the government. It might just shock you.

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  5. avatar Cher Duncombe says:

    Judie, I am at a point in life in which very little shocks me but a whole lot disgusts me, the Secret Service being just one. I am all for oversight but the Republicans fight against it. I wonder why? Corrupt much?
    Thanks so much for your comment(s)!

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  6. avatar Judie says:

    Cher, I recently saw an interview with a Secret Service agent who was walking behind Kennedy’s car when the shooting started. All these years, he has blamed himself for not acting more quickly to protect the President. Now THAT is a dedicated man. These days, it seems it is just a job with a fat paycheck. Loyalty is a thing of the past.

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    • Not every agent. I did a book review for Gerry Blaine, Kennedy’s Secret Service agent and we exchanged emails about how the agency has changed. He agreed with me that loyalty isn’t a thing of the past. My brother (a Secret Service Agent for the past 25 years and his unit is very loyal). These were a few bad apples that tarnished the Secret Services image in recent weeks, but they do not represent the majority who are honorable men.

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  7. avatar Cher Duncombe says:

    Judie, maybe we should start a list of character traits that are things of the past, like trust, loyalty, integrity, compassion, honor, responsibility, accountability, work ethic and certainly, dedication. I am so glad I’m not younger.

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  8. I agree those men should be fired. But the entire agency need not be scrutinized for the few bad apples that stained their badges. My brother is in the Secret Service. He’s protected the Pope, Clinton, Hilary Clinton, George Bush Sr. and his son George Bush, and he was with VP Cheney in the bunker of the White House on 9/11/.

    He is one of the veterans now and he’s disgusted like everyone else of these idiots who used very poor judgement and created shame on this agency. The agents at large are good and do their job with dignity, pride and skill. These men who are now being let go went under my brother’s (and other high ups) radar but now that they’ve been caught, they are being fired.

    Please don’t be disgusted with the Secret Service. Be disgusted by these individual men who do not deserve to wear the badge.

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    • avatar Cher Duncombe says:

      Luanne, you are right in that making sweeping generalizations is not good. I did say in the article that I knew someone who served under Regan as a member of the Secret Service, and he was extremely loyal to the man and dedicated in his service. I do think, however, that society as a whole is facing a character fail. To see that also reflected in our Secret Service has been disheartening. Knowing you as I do, I am certain that your brother did serve with honor and integrity. Sad how the few can impact perceptions by many. I do agree with your brother that anyone involved, including those in supervisory roles should be fired.

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  9. avatar Judie says:

    Cher and Luann, if you happened to catch Meet The Press this morning, there was a segment about the Secret Service. There are those who have pledged to give their lives for the President, and then there are others who act as scouts before the President appears anywhere. Maybe that’s the difference. Those scouts were the ones who got themselves in hot water.

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  10. avatar Cher Duncombe says:

    Judie, I wish I had seen that segment. Still, scouts or not, they must certainly be bound by a code of conduct which was violated. Otherwise, why would six have already been fired? Another irony is that one of the alleged prostitutes is threatening to sue on the basis of her character being tarnished. Wouldn’t that be one salacious court hearing!

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  11. The Secret Service being secretly serviced…oh, the sweet irony.

    I don’t have a problem getting their jollies, but I do have a problem with them doing it on my taxpayer dollars. Just as I don’t want to pay for cigarettes or bar tabs, I don’t want to pay for hookers.

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  12. avatar Cher Duncombe says:

    “The Secret Service being secretly serviced…” Oh how I love that line!
    Yes Jen, your tax dollars at work…or play. Something is seriously wrong with this.

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  13. avatar Janene says:

    You are so right, Cher. What a total character fail. Not just their morals, but what were they thinking? It’s like a freshman in college throwing a kegger in the lunch room. How did they not think they would eventually get caught?

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  14. avatar Cher Duncombe says:

    Janene, it seems that every day more and more information comes out about this. None of it is good. Finally the alarm has been sounded that the Secret Service members who were involved could have potentially been blackmailed for information, and therein lies the scare. It is all despicable.

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