The Secret Service's image has been tarnished in recent years thanks to a string of scandals and security failures.
From a prostitution scandal in Colombia to a drunken night in Amsterdam to a child-predator incident to multiple White House fence-jumpers, the agency charged with protecting the world's most powerful man has faced one embarrassment after another.
But a former Secret Service agent says it's important to know where to assign blame. In his brand-new book, "Protecting the President: An Inside Account of the Troubled Secret Service in an Era of Evolving Threats," Dan Bongino defends his former colleagues while pointing a finger at the people at the top.
"The men and women of the Secret Service are the best I've ever worked with," Bongino said in a recent Facebook Live video. "They are really, really good people. They have a really tough job. I mean, think about what they have to do: the most threatened people in the world the Secret Service protects, and yet despite some of their shortcomings – obviously you know about a lot of the scandals that have happened – they've managed to keep these people safe for decades now with not so much as a hangnail, thankfully.
"Now, there have been some screw-ups, but those screw-ups are not the men and women of the Secret Service. That's why I wanted to write the book. The book's important because it really exposes how politicians and bureaucrats destroyed the agency."
The Secret Service has a clear mission that's "as pure as the driven snow," according to Bongino. They must keep the president, or whoever they are assigned to protect, alive no matter what. If bullets start flying, Secret Service agents are to die first. They are not to care about the president's party affiliation or whether they agree with his policies.
But politicians and bureaucrats have jeopardized that mission, partly through political correctness. As Bongino details in his book, upper-level management has not always promoted the most capable agents to the elite Presidential Protective Division. Instead, they have been preoccupied with making sure the PPD is diverse by promoting women, racial minorities and LGBT people, even when those agents are not the most qualified.
The same is true with the Secret Service hiring process in general, he says.
Bongino saw the hiring process close up, and he writes, "The Secret Service has a troubling fascination with informal, but no less real, gender and racial quotas in its hiring and promotion process, which is causing a growing tide of animosity to ripple across the agency."
Bongino says he would repeatedly see applicants with questionable job experience and qualifications get expedited in the hiring process because they were not white males. In fact, he saw some applicants get hired for special agent or Uniformed Division Officer positions despite being unable to pass a standard chin-up test.
"Folks, the politicians and the bureaucrats are concerned about how things look," Bongino said in his Facebook Live video. "They're concerned about the sexual orientation of the people on the detail to make sure they have a diverse group of people, and that's great. That sounds good in theory, but you don't need to do that. What you need to do is you need to focus on protecting the president. That's what you got hired to do."
In addition, Bongino writes in his book that Secret Service management is often unwilling to stand up to the White House staff in disputes over presidential security plans.
White House staffers often request that PPD agents stand far enough away from the president that they are out of the camera's view. That makes the president appear more approachable, but it also may jeopardize the his bodily security.
Secret Service management has been unwilling to pick these fights with the White House staff, according to Bongino, even though the quest for "approachability" hinders the Secret Service's protection mission.
"When you read the book, I think you're going to be astonished about how the downfall of the Secret Service was inevitable given what happened behind the scenes, but how what happened behind the scenes didn't have to happen," Bongino asserted.
Bongino also writes about the troubling mission creep in the Secret Service. The agency's core mission is to protect the president, vice president and their families, but upper-level management has continuously agreed to take on new operations. For example, the Secret Service has taken the leading role in securing certain events designated as "National Special Security Events," even if the president or his family will be attending. They also expanded their mission to include the investigation of electronic crimes, in addition to investigating certain financial crimes, which was part of the agency's original mission.
"High-end managers in the Secret Service wanted to take on a bigger mission, and in conjunction with bureaucrats kept expanding the operations of the agency into things they really have no capability of doing and sacrificing their core mission, which was protection," Bongino explained.
"Folks, these are all really, really troubling stories about how the government can ruin such a pure mission, even a mission like the Secret Service had."