Allowing people into presidential events without proper screening. Not requiring agents to pass regular physical fitness qualifications. Not even being equipped with the most powerful firearms.
The problems within the Secret Service go far deeper than the recent prostitution scandal, the journalist who broke the story has claimed. The "much bigger scandal," he said is a "lax management culture that condones cutting corners, directly endangering the life of the president."
Ronald Kessler, the author of "In the President's Secret Service: Behind the Scenes With Agents in the Line of Fire and the Presidents They Protect," broke the story last month that Secret Service agents awaiting President Barack Obama's arrival in Colombia solicited prostitutes and unleashed a cascade of scandal.
Kessler detailed such corner-cutting in an opinion piece Tuesday in the Washington Post:
[W]hen pressured, Secret Service managers tell agents to let people into events without requiring that they pass through magnetometers or metal detectors. When an event is about to start and people are still waiting to enter, annoyed campaign staffers and both Bush and Obama White House staffers have routinely told the Secret Service to stop screening people and let them in. Backed by senior Secret Service management, agents comply.
When Vice President Joe Biden threw out the first pitch at a Baltimore Orioles' game in April 2009, Kessler said the Secret Service screened no more than 40,000 fans with magnetometers -- despite Biden's attendance having been announced beforehand. Biden was also not made to wear a bulletproof vest on the pitcher's mound.
“A gunman or gunmen, from anywhere in the stands, could have gotten off multiple rounds before we could have gotten in the line of fire,” a current agent, outraged that the Secret Service would be so reckless, told me.
According to another current agent, the Secret Service suspends screening at "one in five major presidential and vice presidential events."
"Think about that," Kessler wrote. "A terrorist could bring in a grenade and take out President Obama or Biden."
Perhaps more shocking is Kessler's claim that one agent on the president's protective detail "regularly fails handgun tests but has not been removed." Another is reportedly "so out of shape that she cannot open the heavy doors to exit the president’s limousine."
Instead of removing her from the president’s detail and requiring her to pass the fitness tests that all agents are supposed to take every three months, Secret Service management has told drivers to try to park so it would be easier for her to swing open the vehicle door.
Equally shocking, the Secret Service is not equipped with the most powerful firearms, such as the Colt M4 carbine used by the FBI and even Amtrak police.
According to Kessler, the problem comes down to management: The fear that an agent's decision to turn away "fashionably dressed people such as Tareq and Michaele Salahi" for not being on the guest list will not be backed up by managers if they were in fact supposed to be let in.
"Similarly, the lax management culture tells agents that it’s fine to hire prostitutes when traveling abroad, even though that puts them at risk of blackmail by a terrorist or foreign intelligence service," Kessler wrote.
In closing, Kessler blasted Obama's repeated assertions that, despite the scandal, he trusts Secret Service Director Mark Sullivan.
"That is as reckless as President John F. Kennedy’s refusal to let agents ride on the rear running board of his limousine in Dallas. If agents had been there, they would have jumped on Kennedy after the first shot — which was not fatal — and saved his life," Kessler wrote.
He added, "The Secret Service has been derelict in its duty to the American people and its own brave agents. It should not take another tragedy to bring about reform."
Read Kessler's full piece here.