WASHINGTON – It’s been weeks of eye-popping Secret Service scandals – with egregious lapses in security that jeopardize the very safety of President Trump and his family – and now a veteran agent who guarded former President Obama blames “the terrible management class” in the agency.
First, a fence jumper carrying two cans of mace roamed the grounds March 10 for 17 minutes and rattled the door knob of the White House as Secret Service agents ignored alarms.
Then, an agent left a laptop computer containing floor plans for Trump Tower in her car in New York City, and a thief made off with the sensitive information Thursday.
Next, two agents snapped “selfies” with Trump’s sleeping 8-year-old grandson inside a Secret Service vehicle in New York Sunday.
Also Sunday, a guest claimed he “snuck by” the Secret Service and managed to take a photo of himself inside President Trump’s Mar-A-Lago study.
And on Monday, it was reported the Secret Service is permanently removing Agent Kerry O’Grady from her position after she publicly stated she wouldn’t “take a bullet” for President Trump.
The alarming breaches have observers asking: What is going on with the Secret Service?
Former Secret Service agent Dan Bongino, best-selling author of “Life Inside the Bubble: Why a Top-Ranked Secret Service Agent Walked Away from It All,” told WND the agency is imploding and suffering an extreme thinning of the ranks.
“They’re losing right now their best and brightest. It’s a tidal wave of attrition,” said Bongino, who once protected Presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama.
“They’re having a significant brain drain in the Secret Service, and it’s leading to an experience vacuum.”
He said the Secret Service has a “substandard” White House security plan, and it’s outdated by at least two decades.
“The times have changed, and Secret Service upper-level management needs to change with it,” Bongino said. “You have a group of essentially largely sclerotic men and women running the agency who are doing the same thing they did 20 years ago with a few Band-Aids here and there, temporary fixes to big, huge, gaping wounds, sticking Band-Aids on these wounds. And they’re wondering why we’re getting a series of these incidents.”
Trump is no longer safe on the White House grounds and must turn to outside forces for protection, Bongino cautioned.
The administration “needs an outside panel,” he advised. “They need a whole consortium of military and law enforcement outside of the Secret Service, private security people who can be read into the program, vetted and cleared to give an independent eyeball on the Secret Service situation. There is just not enough pressure right now internally, or political pressure to ensure the way they do business. And the White House, how it currently stands, just isn’t secure.”
The Secret Service doesn’t get “do-overs,” the former agent warned.
“The Secret Service is a zero-error environment,” he said. “And, right now, I’m afraid they are not operating in a zero-error environment. They’re dealing with a vulnerable security plan.”
Bongino continued: “It’s not open season on the White House right now. I don’t want anyone to take this as some sort of invitation – you attack, you’ll probably going to lose. But the fact is, we shouldn’t have to say ‘probably.’ It should be a guaranteed loss for the bad guys.”
The first step in fixing the problem is to address the Secret Service’s “terrible management class,” which is causing the attrition problems, Bongino said.
In some cases, the agents are veterans who have 15 to 20 years in the service and are too invested to leave. Others are rookies. All the mid-level, experienced men and women taking other jobs after they get their top-secret clearances, he said.
“You couldn’t run a publishing company like that, or a computer company, or an engineering company where you’d lose all of your super experienced engineers, and the Secret Service can’t run company like that, either,” Bongino added.
Listen to Dan Bongino’s interview with Washington’s WMAL News:
The rate of attempted incursions into the White House is no greater under Trump than Obama or any previous president, Bongino noted, but the culture of the agency began to crumble as it merged with the Department of Homeland Security. Until 2003, the Secret Service was part of the U.S. Department of the Treasury.
“The base level of the threat to the president of the United States is elevated all of the time,” he said. “The office of the president of the United States is a magnet for terrorists and people with psychological disorders. The threat level is high no matter who is in the office.”
The Secret Service is the worst place in government to work, according to the annual Best Places to Work in the Federal Government rankings, released in December by the Partnership for Public Service. The Secret Service is at the bottom of the list, ranking No. 305 out of 305. In 2015, the Secret Service was second to last out of what was then 320 agency “subcomponents.”
The morale of the Service changed “when we stopped winning,” Bongino explained.
“After 2000 or 2001, when the National Special Security Event started and the Service emerged with DHS, mission creep set in,” he said. “When I was there, guys were ecstatic to be Secret Service agents. It was a very proud label to carry with you. And now, it’s apparently not only not a proud label, it’s the least proud label to carry with you.”