Like one of those characters who leaves the band of heroes mid-movie only to make a sudden return to save the day at the climax (OK, I’m thinking about Brad Dexter in “The Magnificent Seven,” and come to think of it, he gets shot), veteran Ethics Alarms pugilist Steve-O-in-NJ vanished for more than a month but came galloping back with an interesting, wide ranging, politically provocative and bitter post about the ex-Secret Service agent’s tell-all book, its relevance to the Presidential race, my contention that an agent might have an obligation to assist a POTUS with less than savory—but legal!—activities, and when he really gets rolling, much, much more.
Here is his Comment of the Day on the post, The Association of Former Agents of the United States Secret Service Condemns Former Agent Gary Byrne And His Clinton Exposé “Crisis in Character”…GOOD.
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.”