The Association of Former Agents of the United States Secret Service Condemns Former Agent Gary Byrne And His Clinton Exposé “Crisis in Character”…GOOD.

Secret Service agents await the arrival of U.S. Presidential candidate Obama in Durham

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.


Graphic: Reuters

13 thoughts on “The Association of Former Agents of the United States Secret Service Condemns Former Agent Gary Byrne And His Clinton Exposé “Crisis in Character”…GOOD.

  1. Interesting. Did not know SSAs were under a duty not to disclose. Isn’t there some mechanism requiring them to get prior approval of publications? Isn’t there one for special ops military vets?

    • Well, it’s interesting. Ethically, it’s automatic and obvious, just as it’s obvious that it is a breach of trust for a White House maid or any other employer to reveal what she or he sees. I am trying to find an actual printout of the Secret Service Code of Conduct—there is one, but our useless news media only quotes parts of it without providing a link. Back in 1998, when Clinton allowed the Service to be dragged into Lewinsky, the issue was whether there was a legal privilege that meant an agent couldn’t be compelled to rat out POTUS. (There isn’t.) But all the commentary about that just assumes that there is a duty of confidentiality.

      When I have some time, I’ll research further.

      • I think the formal pledge of confidentiality was only instituted in 2000. So legally he may be ok, depending on when he left and whether the pledge was retroactive. Ethically what he is doing is pretty slimy. Unfortunately, in this campaign all bets are off, and he can probably hide behind rhetoric that casts him as a private, concerned citizen exercising his First Amendment rights to make sure that this country does not go down a VERY dangerous path with a female near-Caligula at the helm (alluding to Caligula’s random and capricious abuse of power, not his perversion) .

        I have to say, the statement that they are obligated to help the President cheat on the First Lady, a la wheeling FDR to Lucy Mercer, does NOT sit well with me. The Secret Service are law enforcement officers before they are anything else, and they are officers who enforce laws against fraud and deception, i.e. counterfeiting, certain kinds of check fraud, and I think at some point they may also have worked on credit card fraud. As such they need to be doing things better and cleaner than Joe Average. They are not the President’s personal valets, chauffeurs, or manservants, and their role is not to enable the President to commit acts for personal gain or gratification that we ordinary citizens wouldn’t tolerate from ourselves or others. That’s not only setting one set of ethics for the First Family and another for the rank and file of citizens, it’s saying that officers otherwise sworn to uphold the law against fraud have to aid in those dubious ethics.

        Maybe this sounds a little bit old-style Boy Scout-ish, but I couldn’t blame a Secret Service agent who told a President who was at least as concerned with chasing ass as he was with running the country that “my job is to protect you, sir, but you will not drag me into your slimy personal affairs and then tell me to keep it quiet.”

        I have a very hard time seeing objections to this as anything other than a partisan issue at this point. Traditionally the left, or at least the media, LOVES whistleblowers – Smedley Butler (though he was equal parts conspiracy theorist), Daniel Ellsberg of Pentagon Papers fame, Karen Silkwood, Joseph Wilson (whose accusations sparked the Plame non-affair) and the tiptop whistleblower of all, W. Mark Felt. At least they love them when they expose rotten behavior that helps bring down leaders they oppose or undermines the legitimacy of policies they oppose. Those that speak up in a way that brings down or damages their pet people or causes – Whitaker Chambers exposing Alger Hiss for the slimy Soviet double agent he was, Edward Snowden for leaking mass surveillance info on Obama’s watch, and let’s not forget the many women Hillary waged a real “war on women” on after they revealed her husband was a serial adulterer, seducer, and all-around slug – not so much. Now this agent is reopening the old wounds first made by Lt. Col. Robert “Buzz” Patterson in the waning days of Bill’s administration, and it just happens to be when she is campaigning to try to bring back those good old politically correct but prosperous days of the 1990s (albeit with five times the political correctness and without the prosperity). Still, to the left and the media she’s their girl so anything this guy says couldn’t possibly true, and even if it is, he needs to be attacked from every angle.

        I guarantee you, if the partisan positions were reversed, and this were a Republican candidate who had used his protective detail to run around on his wife or abused officers, he ‘d be DONE. If it were a lesser Democrat, he’d probably be done. Eliot Spitzer was a bully (“I’m a fucking steamroller and I’ll roll right over you!”) as well as an abuser of those assigned to protect him. He had dreams of being the first Jewish President. He also wasn’t Presidential material, though he didn’t know it, and when push came to shove he fell. Bill DeBlasio apparently had his greasy but oh-so-progressive fingers in the workings of the NYPD. Though he’s denying any wrongdoing, I think this is the beginning of the end for him as he is exposed as nothing more than a partisan hack and a power and money grubber. However, because it was Bill, who was such a great guy (if you like serial adulterers and perjurers) and Hillary (whose narrative as becoming the first female President must go on at all costs), no amount of wrongdoing and lousy behavior is too much.

        Hell, Hillary responded to this week’s absolutely worthless debate over gun control in the Senate, which achieved absolutely nothing, with the one-word tweet “Enough” and the media is acting like Moses came down from Mount Sinai, his face shining with the absorbed glory of God (a mistranslation there is why he is sometimes shown with horns, as an irrelevant but interesting side note) and the perfect guide to human behavior in his hand. Is this what we have to look forward to? Government by single-word pronouncement?

          • Thanks. So, what do you think of the ethics of what I’ll call the Praetor’s Privilege (from the Praetorian Guard), meaning the abuse of the sworn duty of others who serve under you? I believe it’s per se unethical to drag others into your personal unethical behavior because it is their sworn duty to protect you. That’s both abuse of those people and abuse of whatever their oath of office might be.

            • I agree, Steve, but as I think I noted, the President can engage in legal activities that any other scummy human being engages in. I agree that it is unethical to drag others into ethical wrongdoing, but I also know that the Secret Service is bound to protect the President’s person and safety whatever he does.

              By the time a leader is President, he or SHE is certainly so used to lackeys and minions that asking an agent to engage in a cover-up comes naturally. I do not believe the agent has a duty to report anythng but seriously illegal activities that endanger the nation or the office. If he sees Obama shoplift a donut, no. His duty is to the President. If, as in “Absolute Power,” he is asked by the President to cover up the murder of his mistress? I’d report. Even though I like Gene Hackman.

              • “…the President can engage in legal activities that any other scummy human being engages in.”

                Nope. Leaders set examples, and should be held to a higher standard than “any other scummy human being” . . . especially when it comes to wrongdoing. You’re the goddamn President of the United States. Don’t fucking steal a donut!


  2. Actually, former Secret Service employees are considered private citizens with full protection under the First Amendment. The only thing they are prohibited from writing about is material covered under their non-disclosure agreements regarding classified material. While the Secret Service frowns upon anyone other than high ranking agents writing about their careers, there is nothing they can do legally to stop someone from doing it.
    So, while many may disagree with Byrne writing this book, he has every right to do it

    • Yes, he has a right to do it, but it is unprofessional and unethical to do so.

      From the New York Times, 1997:

      WASHINGTON, Dec. 16— The director of the Secret Service has sternly reminded his agents to shield the secrets of the people they protect — particularly Presidents.

      In a message sent on Dec. 5, the director, Lewis C. Merletti, said statements by four former Secret Service agents regarding President John F. Kennedy’s philandering with prostitutes were ”very troubling and counterproductive to the mission of the Secret Service.”

      Mr. Merletti’s message, which also went out to the members of the Association of Former Agents of the United States Secret Service, warned against ”providing information to any source regarding any aspect of the personal lives of our protectees.”

      He asked all agents, present and former, ”to refrain from discussing any information or activity associated with our protectees regardless of its content or significance.” The job, he said, carries ”a confidence that should continue forever.”

      Mr. Heintze also said Secret Service agents were law-enforcement agents, and hypothetically duty-bound to report a crime committed by a person they protect. But, he said, the agents are sworn to be ”worthy of trust and confidence,” and that maintaining that trust requires confidentiality and discretion.

      ”This is a very critical issue for the Secret Service,” Mr. Heintze said. ”This goes to the core of our mission. This has to do with trust. Most of us take this with us to the grave.”

      Seems pretty clear to me. You?

      This is an ethics blog. Not a “what you have a right to do” blog/

  3. I know this is not a historiography blog either, even though its commandant is a a pro or at least semi-pro historian, but isn’t it beneficial that we know as much about our former leaders as possible? Aren’t we as a country better off knowing the awfulness of Camelot so it might be less likely to reoccur? (I will readily admit though that the gauze that has been wrapped around the Obama Era makes what happened in the early ’60s look like journalistic child’s play.)

    • Sure. And society as a whole may benefit if lawyers spill the beans about Bobby and Marilyn, but individual members of society who no longer can trust their very necessary legal assistance (to keep us from being slaves to laws we don’t understand) not to be agents of the state whenever they choose, and a profession that depends on being trusted (as all professions do) can no longer be trusted, will not be well served, and it’s a bad trade-off.

  4. So I’m sure this book will tell the steamy events of Jeff Gannon and George Bush. How President Bush had a gay man throwing him softball question in the press room and …I’m not going there. How after a Post 9/11 security ramp up, Jeff was able to change his name and sneak past the white house security with no press credentials and spend the night at the white house?
    I do want to read this chapter.

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