Last fall, the Secret Service was plagued by reports of fence jumpers and White House shootings that went unnoticed for days, culminating in the resignation of Julia Pierson as the agency’s director. Her replacement, Joseph Clancy, said he knew the Secret Service had lost Americans’ trust, but asked the public to “give us some time to earn that trust back and prove ourselves.” Now, in what almost looks like a deliberate attempt to prove that the Secret Service still can’t be trusted, two senior agents are under investigation for allegedly getting drunk last week and crashing a government car into a set of security barricades at the White House.
The Washington Post reports that the two agents are Mark Connolly, the second-in-command on the president’s protective detail, and George Ogilvie, a senior supervisor at the Washington field office. On the night of March 4, Secret Service members gathered at a Washington bar to celebrate the retirement of Edwin Donovan, the agency’s longtime spokesman. The pair reportedly left the party and headed back to the White House. They were stopped at an entrance near 15th Street NW and Freedom Park, which had been closed off because of an investigation of a suspicious package. Witnesses say the agents turned on the car’s flashing lights and showed their badges to enter the area, then ran through security tape and crashed into the barricades.
The officers on duty reportedly wanted to arrest the agents and conduct sobriety tests, but a supervisor let them go. Agency spokesman Brian Leary confirmed to the Post than an investigation is under way, and said Clancy asked the inspector general for the Department of Homeland Security to handle the probe. An agency official said Connolly and Ogilvie have been moved to “non-supervisory, non-operational assignments.” It’s unclear why they weren’t put on administrative leave and why the agency didn’t issue a public report about the incident.
President Obama was criticized when he appointed Clancy, the former head of his security detail, as the Secret Service’s permanent director last month even though a Department of Homeland Security panel recommended choosing someone from outside the agency. Jason Chaffetz, the chairman of House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, told the New York Times that this latest incident is proof that Obama should have taken the panel’s advice. “I believe we need a leader from the outside to transform the agency back to its elite status,” Chaffetz said. “We have a lot of good men and women there, and this taints the agency and the White House and that’s not right.”
Chaffetz added, “It’s never good to be drunk at work, especially if you are in the Secret Service.” You’d think the people responsible for protecting the commander-in-chief would know that, but apparently it needs to be said.