Ronald Kessler reporting from Washington, D.C.
— For years, the Secret Service covered up the fact that managers were having their personal cars serviced and repaired by the agency’s limo shop, sometimes ahead of presidential or vice presidential limousines, former Secret Service personnel tell Newsmax.
Over time, “The abuse became blatant to the point of having a technician repair a personal car instead of a disabled limo during duty hours,” a former employee says.
|Nicknamed, 'The Beast,' the presidential limo is seen here at Buckingham Palace in 2011.
Limousines for the president and vice president are flown all over the world and then returned and sent out again without adequate time for inspections and repairs, a former employee says. As a result, suspension failures have not been detected and limousines costing millions of dollars have broken down and have cost hundreds of thousands of dollars to repair.
When the agency’s Office of Professional Responsibility finally began to investigate the abuses in 2007, management blamed the repair technicians rather than the Secret Service managers who had been receiving free repairs and who had ordered technicians to service their personal vehicles.
“Some of the investigators who were investigating the managers who had their cars done were doing it themselves,” a former agent says. “The mechanics were laughing and saying, “'Didn’t I just fix your car?’”
Asked for comment, Secret Service spokesman Edwin Donovan said, “Of course the mechanics make sure Secret Service vehicles are in perfect working order. If an internal investigation was conducted, we are obviously not going to discuss it publicly.”
Agents say the episode illustrates a management culture that covers up Secret Service failings — such as regularly allowing people into events without passing them through magnetometers — that could jeopardize the life of the president and vice president.
Sen. Joe Lieberman, chairman of the Senate Homeland Security Committee, has said the committee will hold public hearings on Secret Service practices going back 10 years.
In the case of the limo shop, “Management was throwing people under the bus for what they were doing,” a former agent says. “It tells you about the cover-up culture of management. When there is corner-cutting, agents have no place to go.”
Located in Washington, the limo shop is part of what is called the Special Services Division. Managers of the division had family members take their vehicles into the limo shop where Secret Service technicians performed work during duty hours, according to former agents familiar with the practice. The work included oil changes, routine maintenance, and brake jobs.
“It was common practice to work on the bosses’ personal vehicles anytime, duty hours or after hours,” a former Secret Service employee says. “The technicians were never forced, but let’s say it was very beneficial if you took care of the boss. The techs occasionally serviced their own personal vehicles after hours if permitted by management.”
One weekend, a manager dispatched two employees in a Secret Service vehicle to recover his disabled Suburban from Pennsylvania, a former employee says. The vehicle was then brought into the Secret Service limo shop for repairs.
“A disgruntled technician notified upper management of the abuse, and an internal inspection was conducted,” a former employee says. “Technicians were branded as loyal or disloyal to the managers.”
As friends of higher-ups, the managers were in a position to cover up what had happened. They claimed the technicians were out to get the managers.
“During the inspection, all of the technicians were interviewed, and they provided written statements,” a former employee says.
But at the conclusion of the inspection, no manager was removed.
“The personnel that were honest during the inspection were labeled as disloyal troublemakers who ruined a good thing,” a former employee says. “The atmosphere management established after this investigation led to unbelievable acts of retaliation, several mishandled investigations, and the dismissal or resignation of several technicians.” He adds, “The management style breeds corruption.”
The episode is representative of the culture of Secret Service management, agents say.
As noted in my book “In the President’s Secret Service: Behind the Scenes with Agents in the Line of Fire and the Presidents They Protect,” Secret Service agents believe that if they press their concerns about wrongdoing and point out shortcomings, they will suffer repercussions.
“Management will label them as malcontents or implement classic Secret Service retaliation, most notably an undesirable duty station and lack of advancement, or both,” an agent says. “Everyone at headquarters sees the job as a stepping stone to something better. If you raise a big issue, you waste your energy, and they want to screw you. It creates a culture of fear.”
Ronald Kessler is chief Washington correspondent of Newsmax.com. He is the New York Times bestselling author of books on the Secret Service, FBI, and CIA. Read more reports from Ronald Kessler — Click Here Now.
© 2013 Newsmax. All rights reserved.