Three Secret Service agents have been sent home from the Netherlands by their superiors for misconduct. Whilst nothing is yet confirmed, initial reports suggest that the agents spent a night out drinking in Amsterdam, despite being on an official trip to the European country in preparation for President Barack Obama’s arrival on Monday.
Regulations passed by the Secret Service in 2012 state that agents are strictly prohibited from drinking alcohol 10 or fewer hours before going on duty. Such rules were put forward by the service after the Colombia Scandal earlier that year, when agents apparently paid for the services of prostitutes in Cartagena during Obama’s attendance at the Summit of the Americas. 12 secret service men were sent home on that occasion, and multiple jobs in the division lost in the aftermath.
In this most recent instance of impropriety, each of the three agents has been placed on administrative leave pending further investigations into their behavior. According to staff at the hotel in which they were staying, one of the men was so inebriated he couldn’t work the simple key card mechanism required to enter the room. This man proceeded to pass out in the hallway, and remained there until the early hours of the morning. In slight contrast to their colleague, the other two weren’t quite as intoxicated but still face examination with regards to their conduct, as they failed to assist with the tempering of the drunk agent’s behavior.
Secret Service spokesman Ed Donovan announced that the three agents had been sent home for “disciplinary reasons” and that their misconduct was being looked into. The agents in question were a part of the elite Secret Service Counter Assault Team (CAT) whose responsibilities include engaging with and drawing fire from would-be assassins to the president, but Donovan insisted the incident does not undermine the President’s safety in any way.
The United States Secret Service (USSS) was constructed in July, 1865, initially for the purpose of suppressing counterfeit currency (which reportedly made up a third of the entire currency in circulation at the time). After the assassination of President William McKinley in 1901, the Secret Service was tasked with protecting the president full-time, leaving domestic operations in the control of a separate department that would later be known as the FBI. Agents of the Secret Service contracted for protection purposes have to start training between the ages of 21 and 37, possess eyesight no worse than 20/60 uncorrected, and have the physical and mental strength to take a bullet for whoever is under their guard at the time.
Unlike agencies such as the CIA and the FBI, in 149 years the USSS has never been infiltrated by a foreign spy or developed an agent that has gone on to become traitorous. Of course, this doesn’t mean they haven’t had their fair share of controversies. In the aftermath of John F. Kennedy’s assassination in 1963, Winston Lawson of the Secret Service was criticized for advising Dallas Police Department not to assign a squad of experienced detectives to follow the president’s car (a practice that was common at the time) and John Hinckley’s ability to take a gun into a public group so close to President Reagan during his attempted assassination in 1981 was also down to a Secret Service blunder.
With threats against the United States President always apparent (but hardly ever visible) the news that three secret service agents have been sent home for misconduct will burden higher authorities responsible for Barack Obama’s security, and may lead to even stricter precedents passed by the USSS to ensure this embarrassing set of circumstances never occur again.
Opinion by Zachary John