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Cultural Problems At Secret Service Run Deep

Memo Pad Politics

Cultural Problems At Secret Service Run Deep


Julia Pierson’s head has been delivered on the proverbial platter.

She resigned as head of the Secret Service last week, voicing the platitudes that generally come with such things, avowing that stepping down is “in the best interests of the agency.”

Congress made a rare display of bipartisanship, forming a great chorus of pontification as representatives hammered Pierson in a House hearing after a man scaled the White House fence, breezed through the unlocked doors and traipsed through much of the executive mansion before being apprehended.

Shortly after her testimony, it was reported that Secret Service agents had recently allowed another shocking breach of security, having allowed President Obama to ride in the same elevator as an armed ex-convict. The man was a security guard, but the agents seem to have had no idea he was armed or that he had a criminal record.

For Pierson, it was a career-ending week, but for members of Congress it was a bonanza media opportunity, a chance to have their pithy quips rebroadcasted and retweeted just in time for the fall campaign.

But the biggest winners are the bureaucrats of the Secret Service upper management. These are the people best positioned to make changes in their organization’s culture — changes they have failed to make on their own and that they can be counted on to fight if anybody else tries to impose them. They have been delivered a gift.

They are the winners here. Not the American people. Not the president, his family or the diplomats the Secret Service is in charge of protecting. Deep change at the Secret Service has yet to begin.

Pierson, in managing the White House invasion scandal, clearly failed. I can think of two plausible explanations of her bizarre lapse.

One is that she was misinformed. That she relied on inaccurate accounts from her underlings about how Omar Gonzalez was able to so flagrantly breach White House security. And they lied to her. Bad actors do that. They cover their tracks to stay in place.

The other explanation is worse: that Pierson is part of the cover-up. In which case, we’re especially lucky she is gone. But either way, an inescapable question arises: What happens to everyone involved in concocting this lie (beyond Pierson)? Will they be sanctioned? Will the Secret Service’s standard practices be scrutinized? Will managers be canned for deviating from those practices or for lax internal investigations? That would indicate real change.

The Secret Service is an agency of 6,700 staffers, many of them career employees like Pierson who had logged nearly 30 years when she was assigned the top job 18 months ago.

“The Oversight Committee will continue to examine clear and serious agency failures at the Secret Service,” promised its chair, Rep. Darrell Issa. Problem is, just continuing to tally failings, to use them as political trump cards, offers little toward changing the agency in meaningful ways.

In fact, the more turmoil keeps swirling, the less likely it is that substantial change can be implemented. Issa’s next comment got more to the point: “Problems at the Secret Service predate Ms. Pierson’s tenure as director and her resignation certainly does not solve them.”

Yes, Mr. Chairman, and what exactly is your solution?

Shelves and shelves of books have been written on the subject of building, changing and maintaining cultures within organizations, be they Fortune 500 companies, tech startups, public agencies or neighborhood book clubs.

The culture of any organization dictates its internal functioning and the attitudes staff members have toward each other, their jobs and those they serve. It is an extremely difficult thing to uproot, or even change in any substantial and long-lasting way.

Culture often is incredibly durable, weathering periods of turmoil, experts say. As conventional business wisdom puts it, “Culture eats strategy for lunch.”

The person put in place to move this mountain has to be equally patient and adept at discerning who in the management echelon can and cannot be trusted. Oh, and he or she must be ruthless. Judiciously ruthless. A large purge needs to happen, but the right heads must roll. All those who presided over the catalog of foul-ups over the last few years need to go. Meanwhile, the conscientious rank-and-file agents need to be reassured that the turmoil will create a better Secret Service.

Signs that Pierson was not that leader are painfully evident in her resignation.

She played victim, noting “the media has made it clear that this is what they expected.” Resigning, Pierson told the Associated Press, was “the noble thing to do.” She noted that it would “take pressure off the organization.”

Yet pressure is exactly what the Secret Service needs.

Mary Sanchez is an opinion-page columnist for The Kansas City Star. Readers may write to her at: Kansas City Star, 1729 Grand Blvd., Kansas City, MO 64108-1413, or via email at msanchez@kcstar.com.

AFP Photo/Jim Watson

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Mary Sanchez

Mary Sanchez has spent years covering immigration, schools, and other volatile beats for The Kansas City Star. She is now an editorial columnist for the Star, where she continues to offer insightful commentary on immigration, culture, and politics.

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  1. Eleanore Whitaker October 7, 2014

    In John Prados book, “Safe for Democracy” and the secret wars of the CIA, the author shows that the CIA has endeavored to be autonomous from the government, the minute Eisenhower left office, the CIA when into autonomous power mode. Under Nixon, this was exacerbated. Let’s remember that George HW Bush was once a CIA head. The inculcated structure of the CIA became an internal business within a business for the most part pandering to the military industrialists in the US and by association, those US corporations who most profit from CIA special ops and other strategies.

    1. joe schmo October 7, 2014

      You demean militaristic rule by complaining about the tightening up of the rules and regulations. You celebrate loosening and bending those rules to fit a more lax and decadent government system. Just like the laws, you see fit in changing and enforcing them within a system that is supposed to be balanced by weights and measures. You stuff your new strange utopian agenda down our throats. Are we really that safe. Are we really that stupid.

      Hey, let’s just get rid of the military. Let’s eliminate law enforcement because that is what you are eluding to. Half-ass anarchy already exists. It’s dippy-hippy stoned thinking. Half the brain has been fried. Why don’t you take a second look at how the Mexican government works or the African. We WILL NOT survive your regime. Rome is burning and you stand in the middle saying, ‘what a beautiful day.’

      1. stcroixcarp October 7, 2014

        She is talking about the military industrialists. Defense and spying are huge industries. An example: Why are we are war in Afghanistan? Why haven’t we destroyed the vast poppy plantations and destroyed the source of heroin? Meanwhile, the media tells us that heroin is the drug of choice even in suburban and rural areas because it is cheap. Who do you think owns the business? Another example: Where does ISIS or ISIL get its arms? In Iraq most are American made since 2000. It is in the financial interest of arms manufacturers to have terrorists like ISIS killing people so they can sell arms to all sides. These folks are part of the military industrial complex Eleanor is writing about. Our government has to stop funding these criminals.

        1. Eleanore Whitaker October 7, 2014

          I have to agree. The last tally of meth produced is in the back seats of cars deep in the deepest reddest states like OK, KS and IA.

          The reality of ISIS is that it attract men exactly like Schmomo….men who hate the government almost as much as they despise an ordered, lawful society.

          The very fact that some American men of the middle age are heading for Syria to join ISIS proves men like Schmomo have an agenda to create evil, violence and chaos.

          Schmomo is fist ready and brain dead.

          1. joe schmo October 8, 2014

            Wrong Eleanore, California…..you know that poverty stricken Blue State, holds the gold star for illegal drug production.

            You call this an ordered society….LOL

            LOL……what a joke. You are truly so funny. I’m a Christian why the hell would I even have any use for the Koran. But, you being a Liberal, will, I’m sure’ pacify the beast:)

      2. Eleanore Whitaker October 7, 2014

        schmomo…You are a CONservative…You are all about militaristic style protection. The proof of that is how your CONs of the Tea Party literally took over the entire country with their bullying.

        Obviously, you make your investment profits from my tax dollars I pay for the military who die and lose their limbs for you?

        Why don’t you stuff a sock in that pie hole? Rome isn’t burning. Last time I looked, Rome had 10,000 tourists. You live with a death and fatalistic mentality that is mentally unbalanced. It simply is not natural for men like you to walk around with guns strapped to your bodies in movie theaters and scary the bejeesus out of school kids. But, your kind pump up the adrenalin by that kind of intimidation.

        You live in a fatalistic mental ward where all the patients ever see or hear is death, violence and the end of times. If you are having a Middle Aged Misery Party, don’t bother to invite me. I rather enjoy the world with all of its problems and all of its beauty.

        You can’t find a single reason to exist that doesn’t push your bully boi middle age fatalistic angst. Yeesh..and they wonder why kids today are obese? When all they are fed is a constant, steady diet of the BS you spew?

        I have no idea why your generation of men believe you are sooooo entitled to an easy life where everyone else but you breaks a sweat. Get yourself a real job..not one where you rip off your customers or gouge prices.

        Methinks Daddy Dearest spent too long on spoiling his little man. How about you are too long in the tooth now to act like Daddy’s little man?

        1. Sand_Cat October 7, 2014

          I think calling Joe a “conservative” is an insult to even the most conservative of conservatives.

          1. joe schmo October 8, 2014

            Huh, actually I get along with ALL CONservatives…LOL and even some Liberals…..

        2. joe schmo October 8, 2014

          Of course Rome is burning Eleanore. You’re just too busy walking around in those rose colored global glasses to notice whats going on in ‘Farceland.’ I am not referring to the old Rome rather the new. It’s a figure of speech.

          You enjoy this shit we live in, well honey go on and just enjoy it all the way to Hell. Say hello to the Devil when we hit bottom will you.

          I doubt that the obese kids today have anything to do with the likes of me. You do realize they are being trained by the best Liberal secular humanists that exist. Sadly our education system minus the colleges have left our children below average in reading, science and math.

          Daddy taught me very well because Daddy is a very wise and intelligent man. I’m positive Daddy is much more intelligent than you. Since Daddy is one of the 1%, I believe Daddy is paying this corrupt Government the bulk of yours and my taxes thank you very much:)

          1. Eleanore Whitaker October 9, 2014

            Schmomo…You’ve lived far too long with your guilty conscience. It’s a known fact that men who have not played with a straight hand are the first and always to see the glass half empty, NEVER half full.

            Tell you what…put on your black shroud and play the Grim Reaper…Then, tell all those little kids out there how life is coming to an end. I’m sure you’re not too adult attitude of Goth Doom and Gloom will make them have any sense of a future to look forward to.

            Daddy taught you to bitch, bitch, bitch. That’s how Daddy managed to always get his way, wasn’t it?

            All Daddy’s boys grow up to be JUST like Daddy. Your Daddy didn’t get his wealth without help but now Daddy convinced you his wealth is his and he owes nothing. Did your Daddy have customers? Did he tax advantage of tax breaks Or did he Madoff his way through life? Like you do?

            The only thing a Daddy’s boy EVER learns from Daddy is that he is entitled to rip others off. How many women did your old man screw out of a living wage to get his wealth? How many customers did he rip off to pad his bank account?

            You CONs fool no one with that Madoffing. For me like you, it’s always YOU and Daddy First and to hell with the rest of the world. Sorry if living in a democracy and a society you can’t control itches your hemorrhoids enough to cause irritation.

            Your Daddy’s 1% is one percent of a man. Your Daddy never was and never will be a man who has any sense of honor, justice or beliefs in the right of equality. It’s why you think HE should never pay ANY taxes. Why Daddy must be the boss…Time for little Joey to grow balls.

          2. joe schmo October 9, 2014

            Guilty conscience? LOL, not really. What the hell do I have to be guilty about? Straight hand…. Wow, you really don’t know me do you. By the way did you hear that ole Harry Reidtard’s bodyguard pushed a poor journalist against the wall for asking the idiot where he got all his money? Real honest politicians on your side aren’t they? Biggest liars we’ve ever had and the worst thing of all is that they are getting away with their lies and deceit.

            Well, the kids, if you talk to many of them they aren’t all too happy about the fact that they cannot afford a thing. I know quite a few who tell me this. There is no longer any pride in Country either. Gee I wonder who propagated that? I feel bad that your side is making them suffer so much….Oh and the lies.

            Bitch, bitch, bitch…..yah, life right now, in this Country is a bitch. Daddy was a very hard working and respected man. Because he came from Europe, he had a reason to bitch. It’s the nature of Europeans to do so. Oh, I forgot you are American and wouldn’t understand that. I understand both sides quite well and if that makes me a bit more aware and knowledgeable, so be it. Europeans say it like it is. Americans feel that is offensive. If I am guilty of anything it is that I have a somewhat European attitude.

            My Daddy didn’t get his money the easy way like you did working as a lazy slave to the Unions. MY DAD WORKED HIS ASS OFF for a non-union company that he helped start. He WORKED for the same company all his life and helped it grow. He was tops in his field and helped innovate a product still used extensively today. He never cheated or lied on his taxes and still does not today. He gives back generously. Something I doubt that you do. I am almost sure you let the government do that for you. You see there is a big difference between capitalist giving and socialist giving.

            I’ve never ripped anyone off in my life and neither has my Dad. In fact, he used to hire downtrodden people and change their lives. He was so respected in the state I grew up in that they named a day after him when he retired. His customers loved him. He was what made the company great and he was lucky to make tons on a phantom stock he never knew he had because it was gifted to him. My dad never played the victim. Remember he came through a war. War weakens some men and strengthens others. My dad is a tough son of a gun. In fact, we look down on cheating and lying in my family, so good try.

            We no longer live in a democracy. My Dad has seen it come full circle from a country where you could live your dreams to a country not unlike the Communist regime he left behind.

            I feel a bit of envy as you write. The more you go on and on the more intense it gets. Maybe it goes to show that your life is not sunshine and roses. The only thing coming up roses for you are those glasses that you wear. You know the pair that only sees that Utopain wonderland where you sing, ‘I’d like to teach the world to sing, in perfect harmony.’ Good luck on that one.

          3. Eleanore Whitaker October 10, 2014

            I know the men who fly below the radar of legalities always play the heavy…I’ve seen that more times in my 6 decades than I can count. It’s always men like you who think you can control the entire world. You can’t. You are anti-social, manic depressive and sociopathic enough to believe your bloated ego is all you need to put your huge imprint on the rest of us. Give it up Blowhard.

            As for kids..raise yours to believe your BS. Mine were raised to be happy, responsible, honest, decent and a productive part of the society we live in.

            You and your Daddy are all that remain of a bunch of autocrat Bulls who lie, cheat, steal and then try to launder it all to make it look like you are ENTITLED….the word you CONS use most and on the flip side of the coin hate it when you get as good as you gave.

            Stop your little boy bitching. It gets you no where. Parents today do not want to raise manic depressives like you. They want happy children. Left to idiots and covetous morons like your Daddy, the world would be a place for free labor, unsafe workplaces, wages that are anything but living wages and all so you and Daddy can lap up the wealth..Take you wealth and shove it.

            You and Your Rich Ass Daddy are going to die. Amassing wealth doesn’t prevent death…the only thing you micro control freaks can’t control…death. So..there you have it..you and your Daddy’s sole validation of your existence…to buy your way out of death..Not going to happen. And if you think imposing your death mentality on everyone is going to help you and Big Daddy Warbucks avoid your own deaths…think again.

            Keep trying Joi Boi..all you do is show coward’s ass and the big mouth Big Daddy Warbucks taught you to use whenever you can’t have your way.

  2. joe schmo October 7, 2014

    “Shortly after her testimony, it was reported that Secret Service agents
    had recently allowed another shocking breach of security, having allowed
    President Obama to ride in the same elevator as an armed ex-convict.
    The man was a security guard, but the agents seem to have had no idea he
    was armed or that he had a criminal record.”

    This is the kind of incompetence displayed by our government on a daily basis. I am reallllyyyy surprised that such lax mismanagement hasn’t gotten anyone killed. Figures.

    ….Julia Pierson did the noble thing by stepping down. Can’t say that for many of the other yahoo’s that have committed similar government blunders. (Lois Lerner,….etc….) They simply got away with committing criminal acts.

    Just think, she opened streets around the Capital that have never been opened before. She stated that she wanted to make the WH have more of a Disneyland appeal….. LOL, yup….the Liberals…..LaLaLand Utopian dream…. Not in the real world.

    1. stcroixcarp October 7, 2014

      At the risk of sounding like a conspiracy nut I can’t help wondering just when did this Secret Service breakdown begin. Was security this lax under Bush? Or is it intentional to NOT protect President Obama to the fullest extent. He is hated by the conservatives and he is a Black man.

      1. bhaggen October 8, 2014

        I don’t be hatin on the brotha, hell I don’t even dislike the man. Wouldn’t even mind sharing a blunt with Barack. He’s pretty cool. Just don’t want him runnin the f’ing country, that’s all. In fact, I wouldn’t let ME run the country. We’re BOTH incompetent stoners!

      2. joe schmo October 8, 2014

        Oh dear, here we go again, the racist thing. When will you learn that what you are saying is nitwitted.

        1) I voted for him in 2008
        2) I love all the Conservative African Americans. They have more common sense than many of us have.
        3) This racist mantra is just an excuse
        4) Racist doesn’t cut it anymore. It is a fact that Obama has the lowest approval rating of any modern president.

  3. Sean Maguire October 7, 2014

    Americans need to keep in mind that it was Obama’s criminal regime which left four Americans to die in Benghazi and then viciously tried to deny health care to ten year old Sarah Murnaghan.

    1. Sand_Cat October 7, 2014

      Americans need to keep in mind that you and all those clamoring about Benghazi are liars and idiots.

      1. bhaggen October 8, 2014

        “These are not the droids you are looking for, now just move along”

      2. joe schmo October 9, 2014

        You’re a moron….check this out. I dare you!


    2. johninPCFL October 8, 2014

      Yeah, but you forgot about the 33 American embassy employees killed during GWBs administration, right? Seems like embassy staff are much safer with Obama than GWB.

      1. joe schmo October 9, 2014

        I think all but one or two were American citizens. Get your facts straight…


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