It’s no secret that the Secret Service has done a poor job of guarding its own reputation. Over the course of the Obama years, the agency has made headlines for frequenting Colombian prostitutes, allowing an armed man with a criminal record to share an elevator with the president, and failing to prevent a knife-wielding fence-jumper from running amok in the East Room of the White House.
But a new bipartisan congressional investigation reveals that the security force is suffering a full-blown “crisis.” Over the past ten years, there have been 143 security breaches or attempted security breaches at facilities under the agency’s protection, according to a House Oversight and Government Reform Committee report, obtained by the Washington Post on Thursday.
“This report reveals that the Secret Service is in crisis,” Republican committee chair Jason Chaffetz said. “Morale is down, attrition is up, misconduct continues and security breaches persist. Strong leadership from the top is required to fix the systemic mismanagement within the agency and to restore it to its former prestige.”
Here’s a quick rundown of the report’s five most embarrassing revelations.
The agency let a fake congressman meet with President Obama.
On September 27, 2014, a man posing as Representative Donald Payne Jr. attended the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation’s awards dinner in Washington, D.C. Once inside, the con man was escorted backstage for a personal meeting with the president of the United States. While the impersonator’s gate-crashing was reported at the time, his introduction to Barack Obama was not.
The report also reveals that the following month, the agency let another unscreened person sneak backstage at an event attended by the president, this time during the Congressional Hispanic Caucus Institute’s gala. That breach came the day after former Secret Service director Julia Pierson stepped down from her post.
One week after that, they allowed an unscreened employee to enter a Los Angeles hotel where Obama was staying.
They let a random Czech guy chill at George H.W. Bush’s House.
Among the other previously unreported breaches surfaced by the investigation was an incident in the spring of 2014, when a Czech citizen with an expired visa entered the property of our 41st president, hung out for an hour, then left before he was ever detected.
One year earlier, four people went fishing on a small lake in Vice-President Biden’s backyard, and were only detected by the Bidens’ Delaware neighbors, who then telephoned the Secret Service.
Via email, agents discuss foreign trips like frat brothers planning spring break.
When news of Secret Service agents’ liaisons with Colombian prostitutes broke back in 2012, then agency director Mark Sullivan assured Congress that the behavior was an aberration, and not something that was tolerated with a wink and a nudge. But a series of email exchanges in the weeks before the Colombia trip suggest that partying with prostitutes was a staple of overseas trips for many of the men entrusted with the president’s life.
Before departing for South America in 2012, one senior supervisor e-mailed 54 employees to inform them that the motto of their upcoming trip would be “Una Mas Cerveza Por Favor,” Spanish for “one more beer, please.” In another email, one agent wrote up a checklist of his trip preparations that doubled as a terrible party rap, “Swagg cologne-check/Pimp gear-check/Swagg sunglasses-check/Cash for dem hoes-check.”
Their current director misled Congress about the agency’s incompetence.
The Secret Service has been led by three different directors in the past three years. The force’s current director, 27-year veteran Joseph P. Clancy, was tasked with reforming the embattled agency when he took over in 2014. While investigators said they believe that Clancy could still right the ship, they also chastise the director for testimony he gave about the elevator fiasco in Atlanta. Clancy had told Congress that only one unscreened security contractor had come in close proximity to the president, but an internal review of the breach showed that there were multiple unscreened guards with guns in the area.
People hate working for the Secret Service.
In 2014, an administrative panel recommended that the agency add 280 new staff members. Clancy assured Congress earlier this year that expanding his force was his greatest priority. But in 2015, the agency’s roster actually fell to a decade-low of 6,315, down from 6,367 in September of 2014.
While the staffing crisis is rooted in budget cuts from 2011’s government-wide sequester, the agency also suffers from a vicious cycle of low morale and attrition, the committee found. As dissatisfied staffers leave the force, the workload on the remaining staffers increases, leading to more dissatisfaction and subsequent vacancies, which the cumbersome hiring process cannot promptly fill.
The report warns that if the agency’s management isn’t improved, and its funding increased, the president and those running to be his successor will face heightened security risks in 2016.
On Thanksgiving Day, a college student draped in an American flag hopped the White House fence, forcing the First Family to enjoy their holiday meal while under lockdown.