Tags: Secret Service | security lapses

Report: Expanded Role after 9/11 Led to Secret Service Lapses

By    |   Monday, 29 December 2014 09:55 AM

The Secret Service has become "stretched to and, in many cases, beyond its limits" following the 9/11 terror attacks, according to a Department of Homeland Security report, and as a result has had difficulty carrying out many of its most basic duties, resulting in a string of security lapses at the White House.

After the attacks, reports The Washington Post, Congress and the administration of then-President George W. Bush expanded the agency's mission, and since that time, tight budgets, battles with government bureaucracy, and growing demands for the agency's services have continued over the past 13 years.

Further, 925 senior agents retired between the years of 1993 to 2002, weakening the once-strong agency.

The Secret Service had been part of the Treasury Department for more than 100 years, but was transferred after the 9/11 attacks to the DHS. It also was required to assume more responsibilities, including monitoring crowds at large events seen as terrorism targets, tracking cyber-threats against U.S. financial systems.

Further, Bush expanded the agency's role to give around-the-clock protection to extended family members of the president and vice president, along with some White House aides, a role President Barack Obama continued.

The agency now provides protection for 27 people, including senior White House adviser Valerie Jarrett and Vice President Joe Biden's five grandchildren, reports the Post. Anywhere from two to six agents are assigned per person, with two to three rotating shifts needed daily.

Meanwhile, the DHS directed millions of dollars to anti-terrorism programs, and sources told the Post that the Secret Service's mission did not have the same sense of urgency.

But former DHS Director Tom Ridge said agencies had to reshape their priorities after the attacks, and the Secret Service "never suffered from a lack of resources" because of its protective mission and ties to the White House.

Andrew Card, Bush's White House chief of staff, said he did intervene several times to fight plans to cut the Secret Service's budget, but DHS officials and Congress did not view the agency as a top priority.

The weaknesses soon began to show, and following an incident in which Tareq Salahi, a University of California Davis grad and his former wife Michaele crashed a 2009 White House state dinner, then-director Mark Sullivan ordered a review of the White House team and came up with 130 recommendations. This prompted the DHS to spend $80 million over the next several years to improve screening for chemical and biological threats at the White House complex and to upgrade communications.

But people familiar with the report said not all the security issues at the White House were addressed, including improvements for its security perimeter.

And as budget battles mounted, the Secret Service reeled with public embarrassments, including agents on a security detail with Obama in Colombia who ended up being recalled after soliciting prostitutes.

Sequestration also cost the Secret Service some funding, from $1.6 billion in 2012 to $1.5 billion in 2013, and the agency cut its total staff by nearly 300.

The impact was felt most in the Uniformed Division, which protects the White House, with the agency saying it had 100 people fewer than the 1,420 officers needed in the division to do the job.

In addition, summer academy classes were cut down to three, so as veteran officers retired, there were fewer graduates to fill the vacancies, and higher-paid field agencies had to be brought in.

Mississippi Rep. Bennie Thompson, the ranking Democrat on the House Homeland Security Committee, said in an interview that he was disturbed by the service’s shoestring approach.

“You feel the commander in chief deserves the best security protocols known to man. There’s no skimping, there’s no talk about people working a lot of overtime, all this foolishness,” he said.

But Utah Republican Rep. Jason Chaffetz, the incoming chairman of the House Oversight Committee, said the Secret Service, citing the need for secrecy, has rarely had to answer hard questions about its mission from Congress or oversight groups.

“I don’t think the Secret Service has been held accountable for the last 15 years,” Chaffetz told The Post.

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The Secret Service has become "stretched to and, in many cases, beyond its limits" following the 9/11 terror attacks, according to a Department of Homeland Security report.
Secret Service, security lapses
Monday, 29 December 2014 09:55 AM
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