Tags: MidPoint | Dan Emmett | Secret Service | mishaps

Ex-Secret Service Agent: Leadership, Not Alcohol, Is the Problem

By    |   Thursday, 19 Mar 2015 04:01 PM

A former Secret Service agent who personally guarded three presidents says poor leadership, not alcohol abuse, is behind the recent failures and scandals that have people wondering whether the agency is itself a danger to those it protects.

Dan Emmett, author of a Secret Service memoir, "Within Arm's Length", told "MidPoint" host Ed Berliner on Newsmax TV Thursday that rank-and-file agents are first rate: "They're just not being properly led," he said.

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"If you go back to … three years ago and look at every incident that's occurred between then and now, you're going to find a supervisor involved," said Emmett, a 21-year Secret Service veteran who retired as assistant to the special agent in charge of the Presidential Protective Division (PPD).

Supervisors either instigating misbehavior or covering up for subordinates "never did happen ever, ever, ever when I was an agent," he said.

"It's very difficult to maintain good order and discipline when it's the people at the top of the pyramid who are acting out," said Emmett.

The agency long known for its quiet vigilance has been reeling from reports of drunken partying with prostitutes on presidential trips and stunning security lapses at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.

The latest incident — reportedly involving two agents behind the wheel after a night of drinking — may turn out to be less sensational than initially reported.

But Emmett said the problem is not that the media account needs revising: It's the erasure of videotapes that recorded what happened.

"The question that I have in this particular case has to do with the fact that there are two surviving tapes," said Emmett. "If there are two surviving tapes, then where are the rest, and why did those two tapes survive and none of the others?"

"That is something that is certainly going to be a concern to the IG," he said, referring to an Inspector General probe into the incident.

Emmett said that the president "is safe" and that the Secret Service has a "fail-safe system."

"The only time I've ever known it to fail was when Mr. Gonzalez jumped the fence, made it across the lawn and into the White House," he said, referring to the Sept. 19 breach by  Omar Gonzalez. "That was a complete operational breakdown of the uniformed division."

He also said new director Joseph Clancy is cleaning house and, at the same time, being fair by allowing for due process in probes of agent and supervisor conduct.

Emmett parted company with Clancy, however, on the prevalence of alcohol abuse among agents.

"I've never believed that it was a part of the culture," he said. "I've always believed that the problems that the Secret Service has been experiencing over the last three years are simply the result of poor leadership at practically every level."

"In this particular situation, I don't really fault the media for the knee jerk," he said of the alleged drunk-driving incident, which began with reports of the two senior agents crashing into a White House barrier "It was a natural response, given the history of the service over the past three years, given the lapses of personal conduct as well as operational failures."

"But I do agree with Director Clancy when he says that he believes in due process," said Emmett. "We all should and at least give these agents the benefit of the doubt. These are lifelong Secret Service agents, senior agents, so why don't we see exactly what the IG says before we try and convict these guys in the court of public opinion.

"If it is what [media reports] said it was initially, it's going to be very bad, but it could very well be less," he said. "Again, the issue is going to come back to with most people what's up with the tapes."

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A former Secret Service agent who personally guarded three presidents says poor leadership, not alcohol abuse, is behind the recent failures and scandals that have people wondering whether the agency is itself a danger to those it protects.
Dan Emmett, Secret Service, mishaps
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2015-01-19
Thursday, 19 Mar 2015 04:01 PM
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