In testimony to the Senate Homeland Security Committee on Wednesday, Secret Service Director Mark Sullivan denied that the April 12 incident in Cartagena, Colombia, indicated deeper cultural or systemic problems with sex and alcohol in his agency. Director Sullivan said that no security breach resulted from 12 of his agents consuming large amounts of alcohol and then taking prostitutes to their hotel rooms while they awaited the arrival of President Obama whom they were supposed to protect.
If there’s no cultural or systemic problem in the Secret Service, how did the April 12 incident happen? Why were 12 agents involved? Why is the Secret Service itself being allowed to investigate the incident and reports of similar incidents involving the Secret Service in other locations?
Director Sullivan testified that, “The notion that this type of behavior is condoned or authorized in just absurd.” But the issue is not whether such behavior is condoned or authorized by the agency’s leadership. Of course, it’s not. The issue is how often this kind of behavior has occurred in the past.
Director Sullivan has served for 29 years in the Secret Service, and so knows, or should know, his agency well. The Senators should have asked him whether he believes his agents have ever drunk alcohol to excess or consorted with foreign prostitutes while at their duty stations, and how often.
As the senators noted, it’s simply hard to believe that 12 agents suddenly, publicly, and without precedent, individually decided to drink to excess and engage foreign prostitutes while at their duty station abroad.
Taxpayers pay the salaries and expenses of these agents for the purpose of protecting the nation’s leaders. At best it looks like we’re not getting our money’s worth. At worst, the agency has serious vulnerabilities that expose our nation’s leaders to foreign enemies.
Director Sullivan was appointed to head the Secret Service in 2006. He is President Obama’s pick. If the April 12 incident erupted spontaneously and in isolation, it did so on President Obama’s watch and under his appointees. If there’s no systemic or cultural problem in the agency, it’s not a problem that dates from the previous administration.
President Obama needs to clean house. He can’t allow the Secret Service under its current leadership to investigate itself. He needs to bring in a new leader from outside the agency, from a different culture sensitive to the importance of security, maybe from the FBI or the CIA.
Or here’s a suggestion. How about Army Sergeant Major Teresa King, the first female commandant of the Army’s Drill Sergeant School at Fort Jackson, South Carolina. That’s where the Army trains its drill sergeants, and where Teresa King earned her nickname, “No Slack”. She was recently and controversially eased out of her position when her commanding general changed. So she’s available.
Just what the Secret Service seems to need and deserve, a female drill sergeant with something to prove!