The Association of Former Agents of the United States Secret Service has reportedly condemned member Gary Byrne and his unethical tell-all “Crisis in Character.” A formal statement will be released later today, in which the group strongly denounces the book, which it says will make protecting Presidents more difficult by eroding the trust between agents and the people they protect.
I hope the statement goes farther than that. “It will make security more difficult” is a practical, non-ethical consideration. What about ethics? Byrne, who was a Secret Service agent at the Clinton White House, has written what he claims is an account of disturbing behavior by the Clintons, and especially Hillary, behind closed doors. How dare he? The duty of confidentiality is as crucial and near absolute for Secret Service agents as it is for doctors, lawyers or priests. Unless they witness a serious crime, agents may not reveal what they see or hear. It is a massive breach of trust, and cannot be justified or rationalized by saying “But we have to stop Hillary Clinton from becoming President!” That is not the concern of the Secret Service.
In order to protect the President and his family, the agents must be in a position to witness interactions that for any normal family would never be seen or heard by third parties, and must be trusted to keep all secrets and confidences. Yes, this even means helping a President cheat on the First Lady, and vice-versa. If they could do something if they were not living in the White House, the Secret Service must protect them while they do it in or from the White House. To exploit that duty in order to embarrass and defame those who had to trust Byrne’s discretion and professionalism was an absolute betrayal. Byrne violated a formal confidentiality pledge, an oath, and the most basic tenet of professionalism, and did so for money.
The rest of the statement from the AFAUSSS will also reportedly accuse Byrne of lying. I am a bit suspicious of this. Their position, which is that Byrne couldn’t possibly have witnessed what he claims to have seen, may be correct, but as the author’s publicist said in response,
“The Clintons always trash the messenger, This is the first of many Clinton-directed media attempts at character assassination.”
She’s surely right about that. However, everyone should trash Byrne and his book based on the undeniable fact that it was unethical for him to write it, even if every word in the book is true. This fact alone makes him an unreliable and untrustworthy source.
I won’t be reading “Crisis in Character.” Anyone who does is enabling a betrayal and a professional breach of duty.