Failures of the Secret Service
Gabriel Muniz – Special to the Southern News
As George Clooney’s luxurious wedding continues to make international headlines, one name is barely mentioned at all: Miriam Carey. For those that don’t know, Oct. 3 marks the first anniversary of the death of Miriam Carey, the dental hygienist from Stamford, Conn. who was tragically killed by police. She was pursued in a car chase after reportedly posing a security threat to the White House.
Although Carey’s family later pressed charges for this unjustified killing, federal authorities refused to prosecute the Secret Service and other law enforcement officials involved in the shooting. Despite this, the Secret Service has since lost legitimacy in the eyes of many for its recent security breaches. The agents, far from being secret about anything, have been deemed trigger happy, indiscriminate pawns of the political elite.
One of the most selective agencies in the federal government, the Secret Service has in recent years also become one of the most controversial.
When it was discovered in 2009 that a couple posing as White House guests managed to get entry into a private party being attended by President Obama, the Secret Service came under increasing scrutiny. Two years later, shots were fired at the White House that weren’t detected until days later. Perhaps, most notoriously, in 2012, Secret Service agents were busted for hiring prostitutes in Colombia (one agent, reportedly, left his gun unattended with one of the women).
As for recent security breaches, President Obama was riding in an elevator with an armed security guard who had felony convictions during a Sept. 16 trip to the CDC.
Also, the break in of a knife-wielding intruder making his way to the east room after being tackled by an off-duty agent raised some disturbing questions about the agency. For one thing, just how safe are the president, congress and other important officials in D.C.? More fundamentally, these breaches also force one to consider: how safe are U.S. citizens from threats, whether domestic, foreign, terroristic, or biological in nature ?
Secret Service agents are by far one of the most highly trained security forces on the U.S. mainland. If city police officers know not to shoot at unarmed individuals, how does the Secret Service get a pass to do so? Likewise, if women have a right to stop at a safer location when being pulled over by a police officer, why wasn’t this considered when Carey was supposedly evading Secret Service agents and D.C. police?
Anyone who has ever been pulled over by a cop knows just how frightening the experience is. Imagine what Carey was feeling as she, presumably, was driving to a safer location with her daughter in the back seat— fear, nervousness, uncertainty, everything but trust, what one should feel when dealing with police and security forces.
This “shoot first, ask questions later” mentality is indeed inconsistent with other actions taken by Secret Service agents. Time and again, agents have failed to protect the president, his residence, and the surrounding area. Not only were gunshots mistakenly overlooked but the president‘s life was put in jeopardy when he was left with a private security guard. And why were no shots fired, let alone drawn, when the recent intruder made his way to the East Room?
This relaxed mindset is all the more troubling because it signals just how inadequately prepared the U.S. government is when it comes to dealing with an even more menacing threat.
When the Department of Veterans Affairs was put under intense scrutiny for its tragic mishandling of veteran healthcare, the politically expedient thing to do then was take down the top guy.
The same thing has happened with these recent Secret Service blunders—the Secret Service director, Julia Pierson, was forced out. But forcing someone to resign is never enough. When dealing with deep-seated political and security threats, the nation as a whole is at risk. The response, then, needs to be comprehensive in scope, not a surface-level, quick fix.
If Secret Service agents cannot even protect the most important person in the country, what will U.S. leaders do when they are faced with, say, a growing Ebola outbreak or ISIS incursion? Whatever it is, let us hope they think first, shoot later, and not the other way around. Miriam Carey, may you rest in peace.
Photo Credit: ehpien