The people who take the bullet
October 2, 2014 2:00 PM   Subscribe

The United States Secret Service finds itself deep in turmoil, with Director Julia Pierson resigning this week after an increasingly alarming series of security failures and oversights in the agency's role protecting the President of the United States. Pierson had been widely criticized for scaling back security around the White House, during international summits, and a recent visit to Washington by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. She startled supervisors with her view that the Secret Service needed "to be more like Disney World. We need to be more friendly, inviting." (multiple WaPo links)

The most recent failure involved a White House intruder who jumped the fence with a knife and made it inside the Presidential mansion before being tackled by an off-duty Secret Service agent. This despite initial reports from the Secret Service that the intruder had "quickly detained" just inside the front door. Amongst other things, the intruder was able to get so deep into the White House because an alarm meant to alert agents to intruders had been turned off because ushers had complained it was noisy.

Perhaps even more alarmingly, it was recently revealed that the Secret Service had allowed an armed private security contract with a criminal record to ride in an elevator with President Obama during a trip to Atlanta.

Joseph Clancy, retired agent who was the head of the president's protection division until 2011, has taken over as acting interim director.
posted by dry white toast (95 comments total) 20 users marked this as a favorite
 
Friendly, inviting? To whom?
posted by Melismata at 2:12 PM on October 2, 2014 [5 favorites]


Under normal circumstances, I'm highly dubious about the prospect that changing the Top Boss anywhere is going to effect sufficient change throughout the organization, but in this case, and with Pierson's at the very least tone-deaf statements about her responsibilities, you can count me as only somewhat dubious.

Each of the major incidents were due to an apparent culture of lax enforcement of policy. It probably also means a bunch of middle-managers are going to have to go as well.
posted by chimaera at 2:15 PM on October 2, 2014 [4 favorites]




WH not WM
posted by stbalbach at 2:16 PM on October 2, 2014


This article maintains she was set up, and that women often are set up, to take over a doomed situation and then become a scapegoat if she can't miraculously succeed.
posted by emjaybee at 2:17 PM on October 2, 2014 [40 favorites]


You buried the lede! Pierson used to work as a costumed character at Disneyland.

America fuck yeah....
posted by spitbull at 2:19 PM on October 2, 2014 [2 favorites]




Why don't they lock the door?
posted by smackfu at 2:21 PM on October 2, 2014 [11 favorites]


I was on the Ellipse (grassy area on the immediate south side of the White House) a few years ago when a guy jumped the fence. Secret Service agents came out of...I don't even know where they came from all of a sudden, but they were on the guy practically before he hit the ground. That someone made it into the building before being apprehended is absolutely confounding to me.
posted by troika at 2:22 PM on October 2, 2014 [11 favorites]


I was going to link to the same article as emjaybee. It doesn't try to argue that Pierson shouldn't resign. It argues that her success was a pretty remote possibility considering the state of the agency she was tasked with rehabilitating.
the intruder was able to get so deep into the White House because an alarm meant to alert agents to intruders had been turned off because ushers had complained it was noisy.
My understanding is not that the alarms were just "noisy", it's that the alarm was malfunctioning and giving repeated false alarms.
posted by muddgirl at 2:23 PM on October 2, 2014 [6 favorites]


The Magic Kingdom actually has pretty good security:
1. A single, well-guarded entrance
2. Fingerprint scans of everyone entering the park
3. Underground tunnels for transporting VIPs
4. Staff that are trained to pay close attention to visitors, engage them in conversation, etc
5. A system for banning troublesome visitors
posted by a dangerous ruin at 2:25 PM on October 2, 2014 [18 favorites]


“The agency needs a solution that goes deeper than more fences and more people,” Chaffetz said. “It must examine what message is being sent to the men and women who protect the president when their leader sacrifices security to appease superficial concerns of White House ushers.”
Repeated false alarms are themselves a huge security concern that should be investigated and addressed, but recognizing that would require the kind of apolitical analysis that I no longer expect from the republican chairman of a house oversight panel.
posted by muddgirl at 2:26 PM on October 2, 2014 [23 favorites]



I'm surprised I haven't seen more stories tying these SS scandals to the booze&hookers-in-Colombia-and-El-Salvador SS scandals of a couplethree years ago.

Hiring Pearson was supposed to be part of the solution to that problem.
 
posted by Herodios at 2:31 PM on October 2, 2014 [2 favorites]




What are you guys? CANADIAN? Clearly Obama needs to be trained in the Shawinigin Handshake.
posted by srboisvert at 2:33 PM on October 2, 2014 [5 favorites]


Youtube vid of the guy running across the yard. It seems like their lines of security are lacking, with plenty of people outside the fence, but not many to stop someone who gets in.
posted by smackfu at 2:34 PM on October 2, 2014


The criminal record of the contractor with the gun:
A security contractor with a gun and three convictions for assault and battery was allowed on an elevator with President Obama during a Sept. 16 trip to Atlanta, violating Secret Service protocols, according to three people familiar with the incident.
There are a lot of things you can get a criminal record for, but three convictions of assault and battery seem like a pretty clear concern for someone in a security position.

My favorite clip from news coverage of this: some politician tried to quantify how far Omar Gonzalez got into the White House by saying he made it through half of the white house tour, to which I added "for FREE! We should have at least charged him for admission!"
posted by filthy light thief at 2:35 PM on October 2, 2014 [1 favorite]


(smackfu, your link is borked)
posted by filthy light thief at 2:36 PM on October 2, 2014


When we were applying for preschools (so age 5ish?), we ended up at Sidwell the same day Chelsea Clinton was touring at a different campus and the Secret Service was still giving checks. My parents ended up steering us away from Sidwell because they were worried about the security constraints in the future. When I was in elementary school, I did a Girl Scout project photo op at the White House with Hilary Clinton and despite wearing nothing more threatening than those terrible leg garter feather things, we all still got pat downs. I realize that there are different teams of Secret Service officers, that how visitors are handled is different than random lunatics, and that technology has changed quite a bit since the mid 90's, but seriously what happened?

(also I seriously hope they don't institute a lock down/restricted access policy to the area around the White House, which was floated earlier)
posted by jetlagaddict at 2:36 PM on October 2, 2014 [1 favorite]


I am genuinely happy that the intruder is still alive.
posted by miyabo at 2:37 PM on October 2, 2014 [4 favorites]


Under normal circumstances, I'm highly dubious about the prospect that changing the Top Boss anywhere is going to effect sufficient change throughout the organization

The top linked article does note that people feel like the entire upper management of the Secret Service needs to be overhauled, but you need a replacement in place at the top first to make changes to middle and senior management.
posted by dry white toast at 2:37 PM on October 2, 2014 [2 favorites]


More like Disney World? What, the Abe Lincoln?
posted by jim in austin at 2:41 PM on October 2, 2014


I've had to work with the Secret Service maybe 10 or so times in the last ten years, mostly for visits to shows by presidential candidates or FLOTUS. They come in waves over the course of a few days, check every single inch of everything, and coordinate everything to the letter.

Two years ago, Obama came to my show. I was one of 5 people who were authorized to be on the floor near him. The coordination was perfect, and they were all fantastic to work with...courteous, professional, and no BS, including up to the point where the head of the detail said to me "just don't go within 6 feet of the president." I said "or what?" He said "well, I like you. But it won't change anything." Chills.

Also, I had to mark where "onstage" and "offstage" was with tape on the floor. I told the head guy I was sure they could figure it out. He said "sir, we're the Secret Service, and we are charged with protecting the life of the president. But we are still government employees. Mark the floor please."

So I did. And you know what? One agent was standing perfectly centered in the beam of a projector for the first shot of the fucking show.
posted by nevercalm at 2:43 PM on October 2, 2014 [75 favorites]


Secret Service? More like Secret...Santa!
posted by oceanjesse at 2:43 PM on October 2, 2014 [1 favorite]


In another Secret Service fuckup news, it recently came out that it took them 4 whole days to figure out that the White House had actually been shot when someone opened fire from Constitution Avenue a few years ago. I'm not sure how you miss a bullet hole in the middle of one of the windows, but it's more evidence that this is a pattern of incompetence and not a couple of minor slip-ups.
posted by Copronymus at 2:49 PM on October 2, 2014 [3 favorites]


miyabo: I am genuinely happy that the intruder is still alive.
The Secret Service actually isn't very trigger-happy. They recognize the immense intelligence advantage of having a suspect alive.

Also, in most situations where they have acted (that we know of) the line-of-fire is far from clear. Take-downs tend to be a lot safer for them. The nation will accept James Brady taking a misfired bullet from the would-be assassin; not so much if little Joanie Smith on a White House tour falls from a Secret Service bullet.
posted by IAmBroom at 2:49 PM on October 2, 2014 [1 favorite]


My understanding is not that the alarms were just "noisy", it's that the alarm was malfunctioning and giving repeated false alarms.

Espionage tips from the Peter O'Toole/Audrey Hepburn classic "How to Steal a Million."
posted by Clustercuss at 2:56 PM on October 2, 2014 [9 favorites]


I have been to the front of the WH a number of times and note with each visit the two or more agents on the roof with binocs, scanning the fence etc. They are of course armed with scopes on rifles...why did they not fire on the guy when he jumped the fence? A friend tells me that perhaps they were afraid he was not armed and therefore might have killed someone who was nuts but not deadly...I am not sure but think they shoot first and worry about consequences later.
posted by Postroad at 2:57 PM on October 2, 2014


I'm not sure how you miss a bullet hole in the middle of one of the windows

To be fair, that isn't really a hole, that is a bullet-proof window so it's not much more than a pock mark.

This whole controversy must be giving a lot of wingnuts cognitive dissonance. They are criticizing the Secret Service for not adequately defending the Kenyan Muslim Anti-Christ.
posted by charlie don't surf at 2:59 PM on October 2, 2014 [14 favorites]


Yeah, this smells like she got thrown under the bus. Why else would people be leaking details of POTUS security breaches to the press mere days after they occur? Like, that's one thing you're supposed to keep secret. My guess is that the old guard is butthurt about having their hookers taken away.
posted by RobotVoodooPower at 3:05 PM on October 2, 2014 [9 favorites]


RobotVoodooPower, it could also be that the people leaking these breaches are aware that keeping everything internal has demonstrably done both jack and shit to fix the problem.
posted by truex at 3:07 PM on October 2, 2014 [9 favorites]




They might be bulletproof windows, but either that wasn't the most successful shot or the force broke an interior glass window since "a housekeeper noticed broken glass and a chunk of cement on the floor."
posted by jetlagaddict at 3:09 PM on October 2, 2014 [3 favorites]


Obama gets his own Wikipedia article of attacks.

That appears to be a list of plots and threats, rather than actual incidents. If that's the worst that's happened, I'd say the Secret Service is doing better than they have historically.
posted by indubitable at 3:18 PM on October 2, 2014 [2 favorites]


None of this will stop the (ominous eerie sound effect) Death Ray, no really, are the crazies getting creative?
posted by sammyo at 3:21 PM on October 2, 2014


Regarding minorities getting promoted and then thrown under the bus, maybe the causal arrow flows differently: when the promotion would be a poisoned chalice, there's much less competition.

Reminds me of when it was the new, British, white CEO of the Japanese company Olympus who wound up getting saddled with their meltdown.
posted by Sticherbeast at 3:25 PM on October 2, 2014 [3 favorites]


As linked this morning on Twitter, a New Yorker story "Barack Obama’s Safety" has this chilling paragraph (emphasis mine):
These murmurs were so consistent that Steve Kroft asked Michelle Obama about them directly, during an interview on “60 Minutes” in early 2007. “This is a hard question to ask,” Kroft said. “But, a number of years ago, Colin Powell was thinking about running for President, and his wife, Alma, really did not want him to run. She was worried about some crazy person with a gun.” Michelle replied that the dangers of the Presidency were not novel. “I don’t lose sleep about it,” she said. “Because the realities are, as a black man, you know, Barack can get shot going to the gas station”—certainly the first time that this particular demographic truth has been enlisted as a reason to be optimistic about a black man’s prospects.
posted by Celsius1414 at 3:27 PM on October 2, 2014 [64 favorites]


If we got a new CEO at my company last year and my department put out a faulty widget this month attracting bad press to the company, and the CEO resigned, I would doubt very much that this would solve the underlying cause of a faulty widget reaching the market.

There should be a whole series of heads flying right now, all the way to the bottom. I hate this PR-approved manoeuvre. It's not that different from the celebrity actor getting caught with a prostitute and then pronto signing into a clinic to treat their sex addiction. It's pretty much completely meaningless.
posted by Dragonness at 3:30 PM on October 2, 2014 [2 favorites]


jetlagaddict, it is my understanding that the antique window glass was broken, and the bulletproof glass is on the interior. The thing was, there were several pockmarks indicating shots hitting the building; it was only chance that one hit a window, but a higher-powered projectile might have made it through.

Ron Fournier (yes, him) argued compellingly in National Journal that the agency's troubles are rooted in its loss of independence and, to some extent, prestige when it was folded into Homeland Security (it was historically part of the Treasury Department). Follow-up and responses. Considering his ties/loyalty to Bush, Rove, and McCain, this at least an interesting position.
posted by dhartung at 3:30 PM on October 2, 2014 [4 favorites]


If anything happens, I feel a good portion of the blame will belong to the idiots in Congress who forced the sequester. According to Pierson's testimony the agency is understaffed by over 500 people due to the sequester. Even if only 100 of those positions would be uniformed officers that is still a lot more bodies available for keeping the grounds secure.
posted by longdaysjourney at 3:32 PM on October 2, 2014


They might be bulletproof windows, but either that wasn't the most successful shot or the force broke an interior glass window since "a housekeeper noticed broken glass and a chunk of cement on the floor."

The fragments could be caused by spalling, which does not require penetration. That was my first thought on seeing the photo, it looks like the pock mark a BB pellet makes when it hits a conventional plate glass window. A BB doesn't have enough kinetic energy to penetrate thick glass, but it will knock glass fragments out on the other side.
posted by charlie don't surf at 3:33 PM on October 2, 2014 [1 favorite]


Nemesis Rising, Charles P. Pierce, Esquire Politics Blog, 30 September 2014
It is now a given in all these stories that this particular president has come under threat with far more regularity than his predecessors did. The reasons why are obvious, but are held in such stories to be uncertain. (Oooh, oooh! Ask me! I know!).
Threat Levels, Day Two, Ibid., 01 October 2014
There are more developments in the Secret Service situation today, and I'm not talking about the contractor with the criminal record who somehow got hired as a security dude at the CDC. What we are seeing now is an ensemble performance of the wingnut chorus on the theme of how the problems with his security detail are actually the president's fault, because of "political correctness" (Morning Squint), or because he's lazy, or because he thinks he's sooooooo smart. If somebody makes a try, I guarantee you, these people will wait a decent interval of, say, 17 hours, before blaming the president for his own wounds. But the prize package was presented to us by those hepcats 'n kittenz at Tiger Beat On The Potomac, who won the morning (!) by trotting out veteran ratfking author Ron Kessler to sing a remarkable solo, possibly because Gary Aldrich's line was busy. Kessler makes it plain -- if the worst happens, the president is his own worst Czolgosz.
posted by ob1quixote at 3:34 PM on October 2, 2014 [8 favorites]


My understanding is not that the alarms were just "noisy", it's that the alarm was malfunctioning and giving repeated false alarms.

That's the same reason we shut off the alarm system at the mall store I worked for in high school. But we were protecting fuzzy sweaters and jeans, not the President.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 3:35 PM on October 2, 2014 [3 favorites]


They are of course armed with scopes on rifles...why did they not fire on the guy when he jumped the fence?

The President wasn't in the WH at the time, is the main (but not only) thing. There's no need to execute a dude for trespassing.
posted by Etrigan at 3:38 PM on October 2, 2014


I'd love to see who signed off on the 'the alarm doesn't work right...meh, just turn it off' order.
posted by pibeandres at 3:38 PM on October 2, 2014


$5 says it was Donna Moss.
posted by valkane at 3:41 PM on October 2, 2014 [9 favorites]


We know why the alarms were going off though: CJ and Charlie's prank war.
posted by zachlipton at 3:52 PM on October 2, 2014 [2 favorites]


I don't want to belittle the seriousness of this, but I think all the media coverage is missing one key point. Even with major screwup or series of screwups nobody needed to die.

It think it sign of a professional law enforcement agency that even in this situation they didn't feel the need to kill. They should be commanded for that and more importantly other law enforcement agencies should learn from it.

Also, lock the doors, etc.
posted by zeikka at 4:15 PM on October 2, 2014 [14 favorites]


I'd love to see who signed off on the 'the alarm doesn't work right...meh, just turn it off' order.

From the article: "In her 18 months in charge, Pierson also became the subject of derision among some lower-level agents for accommodating the White House staff’s wishes for less-cumbersome security over the warnings of her tactical teams."

In effect, it scarcely matters. There's always some dumb flunky who will execute the boss' more jackass decisions. Or anticipate what DF assumes the boss will like.
posted by IndigoJones at 4:16 PM on October 2, 2014


It's disgraceful. This is an agency that had the best rep of any. I was working at a state capital when the first Bush visited. I knew the state highway patrol guys that worked as security at the capital, nice guys but serious about their jobs. After HW left they remarked that the Secret Service made them look like kindergarten cops.

When the idiot from TX was in office there was a story on one of the gossip rags about the Bush daughters showing up at a Hollywood party (after an awards show, I don't remember). Someone overheard an exchange between a young star and their own hulking bodyguard where the star said, "they're the president's daughters and all they have is a couple little dudes?" "Those little dudes are a level of security you cannot afford." After all this bullshit, I doubt if anyone thinks that anymore.
posted by Ber at 4:36 PM on October 2, 2014 [1 favorite]


The Obama administration's Secret Service has seemed a bit...unsteady for a while. Way back in 2011 the presidential limo got stuck exiting an embassy in Ireland.
posted by Skorgu at 4:37 PM on October 2, 2014 [1 favorite]


I'm glad they didn't kill what was probably a mentally ill guy, but that is no excuse for why he was allowed to run that far (and to do so after "law enforcement officers had previously encountered him, armed and with a map of the White House."
posted by Dip Flash at 4:47 PM on October 2, 2014


My more paranoid musings on this are that the hard right pols are angling to get a true believer in charge of the service so they can use their control over the president's personal security as realpolitik style leverage through an implicit threat of letting security slip at just the right moment. But that's probably too paranoid. A former service agent just published a WaPo editorial arguing for Allen West to be put in charge of the secret service. If I were Obama, I would not feel safe with a raving wing nut like West charged with protecting my life.
posted by saulgoodman at 4:53 PM on October 2, 2014 [3 favorites]


Also, TPM's reporting that secret service personnel leaked Obama's location to the Romney Campaign during the last presidential campaign season.
posted by saulgoodman at 4:58 PM on October 2, 2014 [5 favorites]


From the article: "In her 18 months in charge, Pierson also became the subject of derision among some lower-level agents for accommodating the White House staff’s wishes for less-cumbersome security over the warnings of her tactical teams."

Yea, totally thrown under the bus for being a woman guiz.
posted by emptythought at 5:05 PM on October 2, 2014 [2 favorites]


It's disgraceful. This is an agency that had the best rep of any.

The thing is that I think this reputation made a lot of the lower level guys think they were untouchable, which is how we ended up with the South American booze-and-hookers scandal. Who tells the secret service to shape up? After all, they are America's most elite law enforcement personnel. It probably starts small with a few understandable lapses of judgment, but when no one gets smacked down because the SS gets the benefit of the doubt and no poltical appointed wants to come across as not supporting the secret service, the rot spreads.
posted by deanc at 5:08 PM on October 2, 2014 [6 favorites]


They are of course armed with scopes on rifles...why did they not fire on the guy when he jumped the fence?

According to the article, the intruder ran across the North Lawn and into the building.

The North Lawn is about the shortest, uncluttered distance you can get from street to building. Moreover, the fence line is usually packed with tourists.

This is looks like it would be a difficult shot (did the guy get among the trees, too?), and then you're facing the possibility of over-shooting the target and into the crowd. And moreover, he'd be across the lawn in seconds.

It would probably be safer to get in close to this kind of target and use pistol fire, or pistol ammunition from a submachine gun. Safer, that is, for everyone except the Secret Service agent, but their whole point is to get themselves in front of targets.

But again, this assumes someone was watching the North Lawn -- it seems ludicrous that it wasn't covered because, as I said, it's one of the closest points from fence to building. It's such an obvious threat area.

As to why he wasn't shot when he's actually in the building, I imagine protocols are to limit gunfire as much as possible to avoid hitting bystanders, which could include the President himself.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 5:27 PM on October 2, 2014 [1 favorite]


I can't believe no one has brought up Jeff Gannon, conservative columnist, gay prostitute, regular White House visitor and ersatz reporter.
posted by dances_with_sneetches at 5:45 PM on October 2, 2014 [2 favorites]


They're just like any other Praetorian Guard. When they dislike the man at the top, they'll conveniently look the other way in times of turmoil. And they can be bought too.
posted by Renoroc at 6:31 PM on October 2, 2014 [1 favorite]


It's been all downhill since they let Willie Nelson smoke a joint on the roof.
posted by BitterOldPunk at 6:47 PM on October 2, 2014 [4 favorites]


saulgoodman: A former service agent just published a WaPo editorial arguing for Allen West to be put in charge of the secret service
Right, because the best way to protect the President would be to needlessly politicize the Secret Service. Jesus wept.
posted by ob1quixote at 6:49 PM on October 2, 2014 [1 favorite]


The Magic Kingdom actually has pretty good security

Including giant bipedal dogs and rodents, ferchrissake. Vicious fuckers too.
posted by spitbull at 7:01 PM on October 2, 2014 [5 favorites]


They're just like any other Praetorian Guard. When they dislike the man at the top, they'll conveniently look the other way in times of turmoil. And they can be bought too.

Dude, nice hat. Does it come in tinfoil?
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 7:30 PM on October 2, 2014 [8 favorites]


Uh oh. Now I'm really worried. If the past is any guide, it must be true, because basically every idea that merited a tinfoil hat rebuttal on the blue over the last ten years eventually turned out to be exactly right.
posted by saulgoodman at 7:40 PM on October 2, 2014 [5 favorites]


Dude, nice hat. Does it come in tinfoil?

Did you miss the part where right wing hate radio across the country spews eliminationist rhetoric against the Usurper on a daily basis for the last 6 years?

Why do you think attacks against this President are up?
posted by T.D. Strange at 7:46 PM on October 2, 2014 [13 favorites]


(I used to run on the mall and back up past the white house to my office on my daily lunchtime run and the WORST was departing fmy office in a normal security posture and returnurning to my run to what felt like a 3 sq mile security cordon BC someone was arriving/leaving. FYI, sweaty gross me is not able to effectively flirt past secret service and cops in that scenario). A year or two ago a friend and I were on our weekend long run and I decided we were going to run past the white house. It always makes me feel like I'm in a movie or on west wing and running past federal DC always filled my heart with love about the best parts of government. Anyway, we turn on to Penn and I realize BO (the dog) is having a leashless romp. So we stop and take a pic. The rando somebody walking w him let him walk up to the fence and TOURISTS START STUCKING THEIR HANDS THROUGH THE FENCE TO PET THE SENIOR PRESIDENTIAL DOG. I waited for someone security or secret service related to do or say something, but no, the 75ish tourists who woke up early on a Sunday to stare at a building had the time of their lives. Freaked me out, to be honest. It all ended when BO saw a squirrel. BC squirrel.
posted by atomicstone at 7:48 PM on October 2, 2014


Why do you think attacks against this President are up?

Hopefully, there was a sale on tinfoil.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 8:16 PM on October 2, 2014 [2 favorites]


Uh oh. Now I'm really worried. If the past is any guide, it must be true, because basically every idea that merited a tinfoil hat rebuttal on the blue over the last ten years eventually turned out to be exactly right.

It was said the Secret Service could be bought.

There's a lot of fucking money in the world. Don't you think someone would have, you know, already bought one?
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 8:22 PM on October 2, 2014 [2 favorites]


This article maintains she was set up, and that women often are set up, to take over a doomed situation and then become a scapegoat if she can't miraculously succeed.

Maybe, but then again it seems rather sexist to say that she was too dumb to know what she was getting into. She took the job. I think it's important to treat everyone with empathy - we're all human beings - but things get rough really fast when you play at this level. She doesn't need our sympathy just because she's a woman. She was until a day ago a powerful woman with agency. Anyone at this level, woman or man, is a formidable player in the bureaucracy.

Especially in the the hardass and somewhat weird realm of law enforcement.

I have worked in and around government quite a bit, and yeah, she could have been a patsy but there are a lot of hapless men out there too.

I don't know much about the goings on at the Secret Service on her watch, but from what I do know it does not seem like she was set up to fail, or was suddenly thrown under the bus.
posted by Nevin at 8:45 PM on October 2, 2014


The point of the Glass Cliff is not that women leaders are set up as intentional patsies, or thrown under the bus. It's that, when there's a sick system, a woman can be seen as "a change" or "a healer" or what-have-you, and when inevitably all the problems in the sick system can't be fixed by one person in a short tenure, they are (perhaps justifiably) fired or asked to resign. It's not that Pierson is some special snowflake that we're asking anyone to pity or empathize with - quite the opposite. It's a repeated pattern of late.

I don't think Pierson is an idiot. In fact, I think resigning near the beginning of this media cycle rather than after months of drawn-out subcommittee hearings was a pretty savvy move that many of her peers have failed to execute as well. I do think it's important to recognize that sometimes we hold women to unfairly impossible standards, that they have to accept if they want to get ahead.
posted by muddgirl at 9:09 PM on October 2, 2014 [13 favorites]


At this point (if this thread is anything to go by) we're reacting almost entirely to the spin various parties are putting on this issue and not at all to any useful information about average threat levels and the typical performance levels of the Secret Service. I would be happy to bet large sums of money, for example, that the story of the dude in the elevator is the kind of thing that happened now and again to every single President. It's essentially a non-story that reaches the headlines because of its proximity to these other stories (that's why every time there's some unusual headline-grabbing crime we think it's part of a new "wave" of such crimes--because every similar or sorta-kinda-similar story that comes down the pike in the wake of such an event gets front-page, national headlines).
posted by yoink at 9:20 PM on October 2, 2014 [2 favorites]


Wow, this and the Chase thread. I need to go live in a cave. It is all so horrifying but not really surprising. I think this future we are in snuck up on us and I for one do not enjoy it.
posted by Glinn at 9:32 PM on October 2, 2014 [2 favorites]


It was said the Secret Service could be bought.

There's a lot of fucking money in the world. Don't you think someone would have, you know, already bought one?


James Buchanan (the recent one) has been quoted as saying:
"A Zealot is the most dangerous person, because you cannot pay a zealot to do what you want."
(sic) - bad memeory, but I hope you get the gist.

Anyway.

The Secret Service is a an organization formulated on a zealots cause. They are the Paladins. They have a job. One job. Protect the President (and some other stuff that used to be a part of their Treasury posting, but I digress, and others have noted it above).

You want Captain America protecting the President. You want the Last Boy Scout. You want someone who is incorruptible.

We no longer have that.
End of story.
posted by daq at 9:35 PM on October 2, 2014 [2 favorites]


"We need to be more friendly, inviting"

If this means I don't have to sit in traffic for half an hour, because they closed Lake Shore Drive(4 lanes, both directions) so Obama could give a stump speech at Northwestern, I'm all for it.
I sure hope the hundreds of people sitting in cars next to me appreciated the opportunity to see the Roya...ummm..Presidential helicopter fly overhead.

But, hey, at least I didn't miss my wedding like this poor girl!

(Am I still irritated? No, not at all, why do you ask?)
posted by madajb at 10:22 PM on October 2, 2014 [1 favorite]


Cool Papa Bell: Hopefully, there was a sale on tinfoil.
Secret Service fumbled response after gunman hit White House residence in 2011, Carol D. Leonnig, The Washington Post, 27 September 2014
The response infuriated the president and the first lady, according to people with direct knowledge of their reaction. Michelle Obama has spoken publicly about fearing for her family’s safety since her husband became the nation’s first black president.

Her concerns are well founded — President Obama has faced three times as many threats as his predecessors, according to people briefed on the Secret Service’s threat assessment.
[Emphasis added]
posted by ob1quixote at 11:55 PM on October 2, 2014 [3 favorites]


From the article emjaybee linked: Clancy will be Pierson’s temporary replacement, even though he was in charge of the presidential detail the night the Salahis slipped past checkpoints.
How do people rationalize that? I can imagine a culture where even one security breach is unacceptable and the person on the top has to take a symbolic action and quit. But then, it doesn't make any sense to appoint someone who allowed the same thing to happen, does it? The Salahis actually got to meet the president, so in some ways I think that was a way worse incident. Yet, the WP article about Clancy talks only in superlatives about how this is the perfect person to "repair the Secret Service".
posted by blub at 3:21 AM on October 3, 2014




I would be happy to bet large sums of money, for example, that the story of the dude in the elevator is the kind of thing that happened now and again to every single President.

Well, it's already been posted that Obama has received three times as many threats as his predecessors.

Personally I think the Secret Service should be more cautious with this president, and I'm not sure how maintaining the status quo is useful here.
posted by girlmightlive at 4:17 AM on October 3, 2014 [1 favorite]


They're just like any other Praetorian Guard. When they dislike the man at the top, they'll conveniently look the other way in times of turmoil. And they can be bought too.

When they start assassinating presidents and auctioning off the title to the highest bidder - then you can start calling them Praetorians.
posted by sobarel at 4:20 AM on October 3, 2014 [4 favorites]


Hopefully I'm wrong but I'm the sort that will choose malice over incompetence when mistakes like this keep happening.

And money isn't the only thing that can buy a person.
posted by Renoroc at 5:23 AM on October 3, 2014


. It's essentially a non-story that reaches the headlines because of its proximity to these other stories

I don't think it helps that there's accusations that there was an attempt to bury it because of its proximity to these other stories.
posted by smackfu at 5:48 AM on October 3, 2014


Kessler makes it plain -- if the worst happens, the president is his own worst Czolgosz.

This is chilling. The right wing is exonerating any potential assassin, justifying the assassination of the President as being deserved. I can't even imagine.

I'm beginning to understand why there's a complement of Marines stationed at the White House alongside the SS... goddamn.
posted by Slap*Happy at 6:10 AM on October 3, 2014 [2 favorites]


I'm beginning to understand why there's a complement of Marines stationed at the White House alongside the SS... goddamn.

Well if we're getting into tinfoil hat territory, military coups are not exactly uncommon, and Republican congressmen have been encouraging top military brass to openly defy the president if they disagree with his orders, so conspiracy-minded leftists shouldn't feel too safe around Marines either.
posted by muddgirl at 7:57 AM on October 3, 2014 [1 favorite]


I'm beginning to understand why there's a complement of Marines stationed at the White House alongside the SS... goddamn.

The Marines at the White House serve the same purpose as Marines in U.S. embassies, which is only secondarily to protect the facility or the people in it. Their primary purpose at embassies is to ensure that classified information and systems are destroyed if the embassy is overrun, and their primary purpose at the White House is to protect the White House Communications Agency.

Republican congressmen have been encouraging top military brass to openly defy the president if they disagree with his orders

Not to abet a derail, but Republican congressmen have been encouraging top military brass to resign if they disagree with the president's orders, not to defy him.
posted by Etrigan at 9:14 AM on October 3, 2014


(Again, I'm talking about tinfoil hat territory, not, like, real life.)
posted by muddgirl at 9:25 AM on October 3, 2014


As I understood it, a major element behind Pierson's downfall was her failure to tell the president that the guy in the elevator with him in Atlanta was armed. She only disclosed it so he wouldn't find out the Washington Post was about to print it! That is pretty egregious. I can't imagine how angry he must have been.
posted by feste at 11:30 AM on October 3, 2014 [3 favorites]


Republican congressmen have been encouraging top military brass to resign if they disagree with the president's orders, not to defy him.

Seriously, you are quibbling that a refusal to execute an order and resign is not an act of defiance?

Defiance: noun -- open disregard; contempt

Surely you understand that the entire purpose of the Republican suggestion to resign is to display open disregard and contempt for Obama. It's not some high-minded statement of principal. Because they have no principals except the opposite of whatever Obama says.
posted by JackFlash at 12:29 PM on October 3, 2014 [1 favorite]


Well, principles, anyway.
posted by JackFlash at 12:35 PM on October 3, 2014


Republican congressmen have been encouraging top military brass to resign if they disagree with the president's orders, not to defy him.

Seriously, you are quibbling that a refusal to execute an order and resign is not an act of defiance?


We appear to disagree on what "defiance" means in this context. I see it as "No, I'm not going to execute that order" rather than "I disagree with that order, and here's my resignation." Resigning gets someone into that job (the way the military is set up, everyone above the grade of private has someone who's ready to do his or her job immediately, especially commanders and other senior-grade people) who will execute it.

And it's exactly what a huge component of the anti-war movement has been advocating over the last dozen years, you may recall.
posted by Etrigan at 12:55 PM on October 3, 2014


He was calling for military personnel to resign en masse, in "a blaze of glory." There presumably would be few people left to fill any positions.

But again, I thought I was intentionally exaggerating for effect, unless we are seriously entertaining the idea that the Secret Service is going to stage a coup only to be stopped by the Marines.
posted by muddgirl at 1:04 PM on October 3, 2014


He was calling for military personnel to resign en masse, in "a blaze of glory."

I think you're reading "en masse" into that:
“You know what, I can’t add anything to that, but do let me reassure you on this,” Lamborn said. “A lot of us are talking to the generals behind the scenes, saying, ‘Hey, if you disagree with the policy that the White House has given you, let’s have a resignation.’”

“‘You know, let’s have a public resignation, and state your protest, and go out in a blaze of glory,’” Lamborn continued. “And I haven’t seen that very much, in fact I haven’t seen that at all in years.”
I do agree with you that it's pretty far down the tinfoil rabbit hole, but when a sitting U.S. Representative is saying it, that makes it a thing.
posted by Etrigan at 1:21 PM on October 3, 2014


When she was first promoted, I said to my husband, "They're doing it so they can throw someone under the bus." It was obvious. They probably even told her so at the time. You get cred for promoting a woman (which, by the way, is not a minority hire, folks) and you get to have someone disposable when things keep going wrong in an organization that is falling apart.

Veterans Administration was similar.
posted by Peach at 8:15 PM on October 3, 2014


When she was first promoted, I said to my husband, "They're doing it so they can throw someone under the bus." It was obvious. They probably even told her so at the time. You get cred for promoting a woman (which, by the way, is not a minority hire, folks) and you get to have someone disposable when things keep going wrong in an organization that is falling apart.

Veterans Administration was similar.


New (acting, presumably still soon to be confirmed) Commissioner of Social Security Carolyn Colvin is a black woman, an agency that has a lot of problems similar to the VA just waiting for the right story to explode into mainstream coverage (not unrelated to years upon years of underfilled funding requests and deliberate Republican sabotage, but I digress). Watch this space.
posted by T.D. Strange at 7:09 PM on October 8, 2014


Watch this space.

Yup. She needs to be given the leeway to exercise her power. If she's called on the carpet and forced to resign in mid-reform, I will be very upset and disappointed with the administration.
posted by Slap*Happy at 7:32 PM on October 8, 2014


Yup. She needs to be given the leeway to exercise her power. If she's called on the carpet and forced to resign in mid-reform, I will be very upset and disappointed with the administration.

Reform is a very strong word, Colvin is a career agency insider and SSA is not really in a position where "reform" is possible outside of intense congressional involvement, most of its woes stem directly from unreasonable congressional expectations and over-promises by successive Republican Comissioners, combined with intentional, consistent under-staffing. But rest assured, Colvin is there to take the fall, if and when someone has to take it.
posted by T.D. Strange at 8:03 PM on October 8, 2014


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