Friday, April 27, 2012
And So The Food Fight Begins ... Week Two Of The Secret Service Scandal
As Federale suspected, the Secret Service's hasty crackdown on the Cartegena agents looks like it will backfire. Reportedly, some of the agents who resigned under pressure last week are ready to fight for reinstatement. That pretty much means that they are willing to start leaking details of identical behavior by other agents on other trips, and naming the supervisors who knew of and tolerated it all. Having already been forced out, what do they have to lose?
Once that food fight starts, you just know it will spiral out of control. The media has an endless appetite for salacious stories, and a 24/7 news cycle to feed.
Congress is already grilling administration witnesses on their handling of the Secret Service. I notice that Senator Grassley is asking very specific questions about the White House staffers and (military) White House Communications Agency staff who accompany Secret Service advance units on Presidential trips. Is it just my imagination, or does he sound like he has been getting some information under the table?
If Congress runs with the scandal - and they will, during this election year summer - will the administration be able to resist the impulse to fling a little something back at Capitol Hill? I mean, come on, Congressmen and sex scandals? That has been going on ever since Constitution Avenue was a dirt road. Could there be a more tempting target?
The press limbered up its throwing arm by republished this week a U.S. News and World Report article from way back in 2002 that detailed numerous old incidents of misbehavior by Secret Service agents. Just a little something to get things started, like tossing a handful of grapes before reaching for the big, messy, pies.
The first pie, or anyway, the first one to be publicly reported on, was thrown yesterday by a Seattle TV reporter, and it featured a March 2011 Secret Service advance visit to San Salvador. The splatter from that one hit some DEA, FBI, and U.S. Embassy officials who were in the vicinity.
Collateral splatter also occurred in Brazil, when a local reporter asked visiting U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta whatever happened to the three Marine Security Guards assigned to U.S. Embassy Brasilia who tossed a Brazilian prostitute out of their embassy van last December. That resulted in significant physical injuries to her, and, maybe now, a lawsuit against the embassy.
The administration tried to wipe some of the mess off its face today by issuing written rules for traveling Secret Service agents. No guests in hotel rooms, no drinking within ten hours of duty (or at any time in the protectee's hotel), no visiting off-limits establishments of ill repute, and so on. One of the enhanced rules of conduct requires the Secret Service's Office of Professional Responsibility to accompany agents on at least some trips, like chaperones on a High School outing.
This has the potential to get really, really, nasty. No one in Washington has more ammunition for a food fight of this sort than the agents who ride in every limo, stand in every corridor, enter every room, and generally hover all over the most senior officials. They are the fly on every White House wall. So far, the rule has been 'what happens in the limo stays in the limo.' So far, but maybe not forever.
There was only one winner this week - the GSA. They got off scot-free while Congress and the press pursued ever so much more entertaining scandals of a sexual nature.