The PJ Tatler

It's a Good Thing We Don't Need the Secret Service to Protect the President

Wait…what? No, really. At least, that’s the opinion of the Secret Service itself.

I mean, why else would a supervisor pull agents from duty around the perimeter of the White House in order to “protect” an assistant to the director who claims she was being harassed?

Makes perfect sense — as long as you can forget that the Secret Service is supposed to be protecting the president of the United States.

What’s more, some of the agents pulled off the White House perimeter went to the inspector general and tattled. This is the same inspector general who “softened and delayed” investigations, according to the  Washington Post — an inspector general who embodies all the qualities we’ve come to expect from the Obama administration:

Top Secret Service officials ­ordered members of a special unit responsible for patrolling the White House perimeter to abandon their posts over at least two months in 2011 in order to protect a personal friend of the agency’s director, according to three people familiar with the operation.

The new assignment, known internally as Operation Moonlight, diverted agents to a rural area outside the southern Maryland town of La Plata, nearly an hour’s drive from Washington. Agents were told that then-Director Mark Sullivan was concerned that his assistant was being harassed by her neighbor, the three people said.

Two agents were sent twice a day, in the morning and the evening, to monitor the home of the assistant, Lisa Chopey. The trips began June 30, 2011, and extended through the summer before tapering off in August, according to people familiar with internal shift records.

The agents were members of a surveillance team code-named Prowler, which patrols the outskirts of the White House compound and responds to reported problems. The unit is also tasked with monitoring the southern side of the White House whenever crowds gather to watch the president and first family travel via motorcade or helicopter.

Agents inside the Washington field office were concerned that Operation Moonlight increased security risks to the compound and the president, two people familiar with the discussion said.

On the first day of the new operation, the two Prowler agents on duty were directed to leave their position on the Ellipse, the public park directly south of the executive mansion, minutes before President Obama departed on his helicopter. The aircraft’s movements on and off the South Lawn are times of heightened security concern.

The agents thought the reassignment was a potentially illegal use of government resources. They were concerned enough about their own liability that they kept records of their involvement and their superiors’ instructions.

Some reported the operation to the inspector general for the Department of Homeland Security, the Secret Service’s parent agency. People familiar with the operation said a Senate committee’s recent finding that the former DHS ­inspector general softened and delayed investigations — particularly those critical of administration officials — renewed frustration that the issue may have not been properly investigated.

Bureaucrats get a lot of perks, but this one is choice. Imagine being able to call on the Secret Service to protect/intimidate your next door neighbor to keep her from harassing you.

And who are you going to believe? Agents who kept detailed records of the months-long assignment or a former director who says it was only over the 4th of July weekend? I guess we’ll be able to see who’s lying and who’s telling the truth on that.

Oh — and the idea that the Prowler surveillance team didn’t have anything to do with protecting the president?

This past Tuesday, a motorist joined the Obama daughters’ motorcade and drove onto the White House grounds before a barrier could be raised to block him. Prowler agents responded to the incident and interrogated the driver, determining that he was unfamiliar with the city’s streets and made a mistake.

“Prowler is there for a reason, and it shouldn’t be pulled when the president is on the move,” said Dan Emmett, a former Secret Service agent and author of the book “Within Arm’s Length.”

The Secret Service has carefully built up an image over the years of quiet competence and devotion to duty — even unto death. Whether the agency has gone downhill in recent years or the laxity, immorality, and failure to comport oneself as someone guarding the most important man in America has been there all along is hard to say.

“When the legend becomes fact, print the legend,” said the grizzled reporter who was writing Jimmy Stewart’s story of how he became The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance.  You almost wish you could, given the storied history of the Secret Service. But protecting the president is too important a job to be left to men and women of weak character and arrogant minds.

Print the facts and let the truth sort them out.