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

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3 comments

  • You forget that she ran over a Uniform Division Officer? Please have some journalistic integrity…

  • I hope I have enough space to point out the multiple errors in your article. Then, I would love to know where you got your credentials as a journalist because that institution needs to be held accountable for this idiocy.

    First of all, not a single Secret Service agent fired a shot at Miriam Carey. Because they are not agents. They are officers, as noted multiple times in the US Attorney’s report on the incident, had you bothered to read it.

    Second, Ms. Carey was, indeed, brandishing a weapon that day in the form of 1,500 pounds of metal hurling down the road at speeds of 30-50 mph. Give me 30 seconds and I’ll give you a dozen examples of police officers around the country justifiably using armed force to stop someone driving their car dangerously and with no regard to the officers’ safety.

    Third, your use of the word “supposedly” evading police is comical. The report I mentioned above clearly indicates that the subject, Ms. Carey, repeatedly rammed barriers and vehicles while officers were trying to stop her and remove her from the vehicle. Uniformed officers, by the way, men and women plainly dressed as law enforcement, all giving legal commands to stop the vehicle.

    Now I still fail to see what one has to do with another, but the individual who jumped the fence and got into the White House was visibly unarmed. The President, including his family, was not home at the time. Had OFFICERS shot and wounded or killed Mr. Gomez (he has a name, too), I’m sure we would be reading another poorly written and researched article by you about what a travesty it is that Secret Service OFFICERS had killed an unarmed man and the President wasn’t even home!

    I think the Secret Service definitely needs some changes, but unless you can offer up some ideas beyond a few poorly constructed associations between unrelated events, do us all a favor and stick to FaceBook posts.

  • It’s interesting that in one article you want the USSS to think first and shoot later, and turn around and criticize them for not shooting first an apparently unarmed man who enters the White House. Which way do you want them to act? I’ve been there and done that. You apparently never have. It’s a tough job and not one to be second guessed from a distance.

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