Gyrocopters, Hookers, and Wannabes: Inside Obama's Secret Service

On April 15, 2015, a U.S. Postal Service worker invaded restricted airspace over Washington, DC and landed his gyrocopter on the West Lawn of the Capitol building. He departed an airport in Maryland and flew his machine, undetected, for over an hour to reach his destination. According to news reports, the Secret Service had interviewed the man twice before, most recently in 2013. 

At that time, the man stated his intention to do exactly what he did and admitted that he owned and flew the contraption. Despite the man's honesty, apparently no one at the Secret Service bothered to believe him. It has also been reported that the Tampa, Florida Secret Service office received a tip that Wednesday's plan was afoot.  

The Secret Service has a long history of diligence, sacrifice, and effectiveness in its primary mission:  to protect the lives of the President, the First Family and other government officials.  Since the current administration assumed office in 2009 however, the Secret Service has been tarnished badly by repeated security lapses and scandals. To fully appreciate the devolution of serious responsibility into frat house inanity, let's review the prequel to Wednesday's event.

In 2009, the Capitol was a twitter with excitement over the first official state dinner of the Obama White House. The honored guest was Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh. A "wannabe" reality TV star, Michaele Salahi and her husband Tareq crashed the event. They waltzed through White House security and huddled with the president for receiving line photos in The Blue Room, all without appearing on the official, vetted guest list.

Secret Service Director Mark Sullivan confirmed the couple was not on the approved list and apologized for the lapse. Although Sullivan initially denied that the president or his guest of honor were ever in danger, he was forced to rescind that statement when the receiving line photos were released. The Secret Service Special Agent in Charge (SAC) of the Presidential  Protective Division that night was Joseph P. Clancy, a name to keep in mind.  

In 2009 post-event testimony to the House Homeland Security Committee, Director Sullivan stated that as a result of the breach of security, three uniformed members of the Secret Service had been placed on administrative leave with full pay. 

In November 2011, Oscar Ortega-Hernandez fired 7 bullets from his semiautomatic rifle into the residence quarters of the White House. Although several Secret Service agents perceived the shots and started to react, a supervisor declared that no shots had been fired and issued a "stand down" order. Four days later, thanks to a White House housekeeper who noticed broken glass and concrete on the second floor terrace, the Secret Service began a belated investigation. Present in the residence at the time of the shooting were Obama's mother-in-law and daughter Sasha. The Secret Service response to this mind-boggling episode was to "implement personnel and structural enhancements."   

In 2012, the Secret Service treated us to "Animal House Cartagena." While doing advance work for a presidential trip to Columbia, agents entertained prostitutes in their hotel rooms. What could possibly be wrong with that? 

The Department of Homeland Security Office of Inspector General conducted an internal review headed by David Nieland. Through this investigation and congressional testimony we know that initially 13 Secret Service agents were placed on administrative leave. Ultimately, nine agents were pushed out of the Service. Six were dismissed. One supervisor was allowed to retire and another was urged to resign. The bright line for punishment appeared to be whether the sex was a commercial transaction.

On February 22, 2013, Secret Service Director Mark Sullivan retired from government service. While most thought his departure was in reaction to the very public and disgraceful lapses on his watch, Sullivan may have wanted to leave before his own misuse of Secret Service personnel came to light. In the summer of 2011, Director Sullivan and his Deputy Director, Keith Prewitt ran what was called "Operation Moonlight." Lisa Chopey, a Secret Service assistant to Director Sullivan and a personal friend of Deputy Director Prewitt got into a nasty dispute with a neighbor. The local police were notified. Nonetheless, two-agent "Prowler" units were pulled off White House protection duty on five occasions to take the 50-minute drive to Chopey's house in La Playa, Maryland. On two of those occasions, Obama was in the White House. As concluded by DHS Inspector General Roth in his report on Operation Moonlight, released in October 2014, the mission of the Secret Service is to protect the president, not to involve itself in the private disputes of employees. Both Sullivan and Prewitt are now in the private sector, presumably enjoying full federal retirement and pension benefits.

Upon Sullivan's retirement, Obama nominated Julia Pierson and on March 27, 2013, she became the first woman Director of the Secret Service. Ms. Pierson was the Service's chief of staff in 2011, when Mr. Ortega-Hernandez shot up the White House. Her charge was to clean-up the mess, avoid any more public embarrassments, and restore discipline to the Service. Under Director Pierson's leadership, the disasters only multiplied. 

At Nelson Mendela's memorial in early December 2013, Obama was allowed to stand on the stage next to an imposter sign language interpreter, who was actually an admitted schizophrenic with no interpretative skills at all. 

On September 16, 2014, in Atlanta, a man with a gun and arrest record was allowed, inexplicably, in an elevator with the president. Secret Service agents, annoyed that the man took cellphone photos of the president, had no clue that he had a gun. Director Pierson did not inform the president or the secretary of the DHS of the incident.  

Just three days later, on September 19, 2014, knife-wielding Omar Gonzalez jumped the White House perimeter fence and made it deep inside the mansion before being apprehended. Secret Service officials initially said that the intruder was stopped at the main entry. An investigation revealed the true facts. Gonzalez crossed the lawn undetected and undeterred by dogs or humans. An agent who was supposed to be at the mansion entrance was not at the post. Gonzalez overpowered the female agent posted inside the mansion entrance, ran past the short flight of stairs to the family residence and into the East Room. He was tackled finally at the door to the Green Room by an off duty agent at "the sixth ring of defense."  

Director Pierson failed to advise the president exactly how far into the mansion this intruder had gotten, apparently preferring to keep him ignorant of the extensive security failures. For this and all of the other transgressions on her watch, she resigned on October 1, 2014.

On October 10, 2014, the Secretary of the DHS requested an assessment and recommendations for both the security of the White House compound and for candidates to be the next Director of the Secret Service. A central recommendation of the 12/15/14 U.S. Secret Service Protective Mission Panel report was that the next director should come from outside of the Secret Service. 

On February 18, 2015, Obama selected Joseph P. Clancy to be the new director of the Secret Service. Remember Mr. Clancy?  Far from the outsider recommended by the Protective Mission Panel, Mr. Clancy is the very same Secret Service agent who was in charge of the White House Protection Detail the night the Salahis gate-crashed the 2009 state dinner for the Premier of India. And, Director Clancy is the man who now will have to answer for his agency's role in the gyrocopter debacle of last Wednesday.