Ethics Dunce: Secret Service Agent Kerry O’Grady

Here is a Facebook post by O’Grady, the special agent in charge of the Secret Service’s Denver district, who oversees coordination with Washington-based advance teams for all Presidential trips to the area:

facebook-secret-service

 

This was in October, and was seen by her Facebook followers including current and former Secret Service agents. In addition to being a declaration of disloyalty, the social media post is  a Hatch Act violation, which among other things prohibits a federal employee from “posting a comment to a blog or a social media site that advocates for or against a partisan political party, candidate for partisan political office,or partisan political group,” and also from using  social media to “distribute, send or forward content that advocates for or against a partisan political party, candidate for partisan political office, or partisan political group.”

Never mind that, though. Continue reading

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

Bill and Monica

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.”

Continue reading

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. Continue reading

“What’s Going On Here?”:The Secret Service’s Vindictive Leak

I was going to use another "fish rotting from the head" picture, but Thomas of Beckett's murder---which Henry didn't direct, mind you!---seemed more appropriate.

I was going to use another “fish rotting from the head” picture, but Thomas of Beckett’s murder—which Henry didn’t direct, mind you!—seemed more appropriate.

Last week, we learned that Secret Service Assistant Director Edward Lowery suggested that unflattering information the agency had in its files about a Republican Congressman ­who had been critical of the service—and who hasn’t been?— should be leaked to public as the agency’s revenge. And it was.

“Some information that he might find embarrassing needs to get out,”  Lowry wrote in an e-mail to a fellow director on March 31, commenting on an internal file that was being widely circulated inside the service. “Just to be fair.” Soon an internet source reported that Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah), chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, had applied to be a Secret Service agent in 2003 and was rejected. That information was part of a Chaffetz personnel file stored in a restricted Secret Service database and required by law to remain private.

During an inspector general’s investigation, Lowery denied that he directed anyone to leak the private information about Chaffetz to the press and said his e-mail was simply venting. How Clintonian. No, he didn’t direct anyone to do it: he just said that it should be done, as in Will no one rid me of this troublesome priest?”

So far, this self-evident dodge has been enough to keep Lowery in his job, because as those who are honest and fair know, there is no accountability in the Obama Administration, and if a Republican Congressman is embarrassed, everyone knows the President is smiling about it. Lowry was  promoted to the post of Assistant Director for Training a month ago to help reform the agency after outrageous security lapses that Chaffetz had helped expose and criticize.

That’s some reformer! Continue reading

JFK’s Death, Hanlon’s Razor, And How Truth Gets Buried Forever

JFK Hickey

I am a student of Presidential assassinations (as you might guess by the posts on McKinley and Garfield), and have been most of my life, ever since I saw a TV special called “Web of Conspiracy” when I was 10, about the Lincoln murder. That led me to read the  best-selling book the special was based on, an 800 page, sensational analysis of the mysteries behind Lincoln’s death, by mystery writer Theodore Roscoe, who dabbled in history. The book’s theories and insinuating style are more convincing to a ten-year-old than an adult (I read the book many years later, and it drove me crazy), but the book still has a lot of fascinating tales and theories in it. I was hooked.

Oddly, the one Presidential assassination that has interested me least in recent years is the one I lived through, the assassination of President Kennedy. Blame Oliver Stone, Kevin Costner and Jim Garrison: “JFK” was the most dishonest movie I had ever watched (still is) and I walked out of it when its lies and distortions got too much for me about a third of the way through. Even before Stone’s brilliantly directed piece of crap. I was sick of the conspiracy theories, though Stone manufacturing a link to Lyndon Johnson was the final straw. Yes, the bitter Vietnam veteran really got back at LBJ; I hope it made him feel better. I, however, was soured on the whole topic.

I should have been paying more attention. Netflix is showing a documentary with the generic conspiracy theory title of “JFK: The Smoking Gun,” which was shown on cable two years ago. I missed it; if I had been aware of the film, the title and the subject matter—Oh, who’s behind it now? The Mafia? Nixon? Woody Harrelson’s father?—would have kept me away. But while I was on the road for a couple days doing ethics seminars for VACLE, my wife watched the documentary, and when I returned, sleep deprived, weak and submissive, she made me watch it.

Fascinating. And troubling. Continue reading

Iowa’s Kirkwood Community College Imprisons Its Students In Deference To Hillary Clinton

"This is a great community college, you know?"

“This is a great community college, you know?”

I’m willing to entertain the notion that the exigencies of the situation may have justified Boston’s police ordering citizens to stay in their homes during the dragnet for the Boston Marathon bombers in 2013, Barely. Still, the explosion of extra-legal, unconstitutional abuses of power by national and state governments during the Presidency of Barack Obama is profoundly troubling, and even more so is the complacency of the public and media when it occurs.

Yes indeed, I see this particularly frightening fish-rot as being initiated from the head in the White House, who has embraced the governing theory that if consensus and compromise on desired measures, laws and policies can’t be achieved under the Constitution’s formula, do it anyway. This isn’t strength, you know. It is weakness, the desperate resort of an unskilled executive with contempt for democracy. Under this administration, we have seen a President and a Justice department refuse to fulfill their duties and defend a duly passed and signed law that they just didn’t like (DOMA). Wrong. We have seen a President unilaterally amend his own sloppy health care law because he knows that if he tried to fix it legally, the Congress would gut it. Wrong. We have seen Obama repeal immigration restrictions by executive order, and declare that the Senate was in recess in order to avoid the bother of getting legally mandated  confirmation of his appointments—that one, at least, was struck down by the Supreme Court.

The cumulative effect of all of this is gradually increasing public tolerance for official breaches of the rule of law, at all levels of government, and by private entities too. I believe that that this threatens the democratic culture, and I do not understand why progressives are not as outraged by this development as moderates and conservatives. Do they really think that having allowed Constitutional protections to erode so their precious agenda can be advanced, those protections will be suddenly vigorous again when their adversaries have the upper hand? What utter, utter fools:

The sickening effect of this complacency was on display at Kirkwood Community College in Monticello, Iowa, Continue reading

The Sixth Annual Ethics Alarms Awards: The Worst of Ethics 2014 (Part 4 of 4)

mamoru-samuragochi2

Outrageous Hoax Of The Year

Mamoru Samuragochi, the composer sometimes known as “The Japanese Beethoven” because he composed critically acclaimed works despite being deaf, was exposed as double fraud: he didn’t compose the works that made him Japan’s most popular classical composer, and he isn’t even really deaf!  Samuragochi hired a musical ghostwriter named Takashi Niigaki to compose more than twenty compositions for Samuragochi since 1996.

Funniest Outrageous Hoax

Fake Panda

This.

Unethical Artist Of The Year

Performance artist Maximo Caminero, who  walked into the Pérez Art Museum in Miami, entered a special exhibit of sixteen ancient Chinese vases painted over in bright colors by celebrated Chinese dissident artist Ai Weiwei, picked up one of them, and immediately after a security guard instructed him not to touch the exhibit, allowed the vase to fall from his hands, shattering into bits. Caminero admitted that smashing the pottery, which was valued at a million dollars,  was intentional, and was his protest against in support of local artists like himself whose work is not exhibited at the museum while the art of international artists like Weiwei is.

Unethical Veterinarian Of The Year

Fort Worth, Texas veterinarian Lou Tierce lost his license for five years as a result of, among other transgressions, his telling the owners of a Leonburger (it’s a very big dog) that their pet was terminally ill and had to be euthanized, then secretly keeping the dog alive in a small cage so he could use Sid’s blood for transfusions to Dr. Tierce’s other canine patients. Eventually an assistant at the clinic blew the whistle and alerted Sid’s owners, who rescued their dog and sicced the law on the worst veterinarian since Dean Jones menaced Beethoven.

Unethical Doctor Of The Year

Dr. Nancy Snyderman, NBC’s medical expert, endangered the public by defying a voluntary quarantine for possible Ebola exposure,  because she just couldn’t bear to be without her favorite soup.

Scam of the Year

Jonathan-Gruber-1

The Affordable Care Act.

 Unethical Federal Agency Of The Year

The Secret Service. Lots of competition in this category: the Veterans Administration, the I.R.S., the CDC, the Justice Department, NSA…but when you essentially have one job to do and do it badly, sloppily carelessly and dangerously, there’s really not much more to say Continue reading

Ethics Dunces: Un-Named Members Of Mitt Romney’s Campaign Staff

My guess? This whole Secret Service mess makes Clint want to throw up. Then there's that Mediaite headline...

My guess? This whole Secret Service mess makes Clint want to throw up. Then there’s that Mediaite headline…

 Inside Sources Reports:

“Multiple sources inside the Romney presidential campaign confirm that a Secret Service agent provided details of President Obama’s schedule several days prior to the President’s campaign stops becoming public….In the closing weeks of the 2012 campaign, a Secret Service agent was on the ground in a key swing state to coordinate security ahead of several campaign stops by the President. The agent, who was married, made advances towards a Romney campaign staff member.

InsideSources spoke with two staffers who witnessed the events in question. Each spoke on condition of anonymity and independently confirmed the details.

In one particular incident at a bar in late October 2012, the Secret Service agent, who had a number of drinks during the meeting, unprompted and in an apparent attempt to impress one of the staffers, began providing details of President Obama’s schedule. The information included times and locations of the President’s events in the final days of the election. The President’s campaign would not release these details of the President’s schedule publicly until several days later.

The sources state that the same agent on a separate occasion provided joy rides in a Secret Service vehicle with the lights flashing.

The leaked schedule was later passed on within the campaign. Others inside the campaign recall seeing the schedule, but the source of the information was not revealed. The schedule, therefore, was met only with skepticism. The details of the President’s schedule later proved to be accurate.

Former advisers to the Romney campaign note that the leaked schedule, which was not widely circulated within the campaign, did not impact the campaign’s strategy. It received little attention as the election was days away.”

Wait...what????

Multiple members of Mitt Romney’s staff knew that a Secret Service agent was endangering the President by revealing sensitive details about his schedule in 2012, and they waited until now to let anyone know?

They had an absolute duty—as Americans— to reveal this to the Secret Service itself immediately. Were they just waiting for a juicy time to reveal it, say, after this same idiot with an earpiece got the President killed? Did Mitt Romney approve the lack of the proper response? Or some campaign strategist who feared that the revelation would backfire, and cost votes? How many Romney staff members knew the President was at risk, and kept it to themselves? Do we even know now who this agent was, and whether he is still on duty?

The damage done by the incompetence of the Democratic government is substantially amplified by the ethical obtuseness of its Republican critics.

BONUS: The Mediaite headline on this story has to be one of the worst-composed in recent memory:

“Secret Service Agent Allegedly Told Someone Obama’s Movements to ‘Impress a Woman'”

I read it two ways, and neither was what the headline was supposed to convey:

#1: Obama was trying to impress some woman

#2: Ew!

_____________________________

Pointer: Mediaite

Facts: Inside Sources

Update on the Secret Service: Mud

muddy

The Secret Service Director, Julia Pierson, resigned.

Because today’s news carried yet another tale of a dangerous botch by her agency, an episode in which the President was allowed to ride in a elevator with an unscreened individual who had a gun on his person, this looks like a final straw situation when no final straw was needed.

It was crucial that she be fired, by Obama, and that this be made clear, as well as why she was being fired: incompetence, poor performance by the Service, no trust of confidence by him, Congress or the public. This should have been conveyed immediately after the fence-jumper fiasco. If not then, immediately after Pierson’s embarrassing performance before Congress yesterday. The message that the President himself will not tolerate sub-par performance would be a welcome and encouraging one even as ridiculously late as that would be, six years into his Presidency.

But no. As usual, the Administration’s message, and values,  are as clear as mud. Homeland Security Secretary Joe Jeh’s statement announcement of the resignation was typical equivocal murk:

1. I have accepted Pierson’s resignation.

2. I salute her 30 years of service.

3. We are studying the fence-jumping incident.

4. Scrutiny “by a distinguished panel of independent experts of the September 19 incident and related issues concerning the Secret Service is warranted. The Panelists will be named shortly.”

5. “The Secret Service is one of the finest official protection services in the world, consisting of men and women who are highly trained and skilled professionals prepared to put their own lives on the line in a second’s notice for the people they protect. Last week, the Secret Service was responsible for the protection of the President as well as 140 visiting heads of state or government as they convened at the United Nations General Assembly in New York City. Likewise, in August the Secret Service handled the protection of 60 world leaders as they convened in Washington, D.C. for the African Summit. As usual, the Secret Service executed these highly complex and demanding assignments without incident. There is no other protection service in the world that could have done this.”

So if the Secret Service it is so good, and performed so well recently, why is the Director quitting? Why is a panel needed, if the agents are so well-trained and the agency performs so well?

Mud.

____________________

Pointer: Slate

Sources: Washington Post 1, 2

Will President Obama’s New Leadership Model Cripple U.S. Management Competence For Decades?

America in ruins

 It seems to be a distinct possibility.

The President of the United States is the culture’s most powerful, visible and influential leader. Like it of not, he is also a role model for leadership and management across society. He has the most responsibility, the largest organization to oversee, and the most vital interests at stake. The management and leadership techniques he uses necessarily set a standard others, especially young, inexperienced, aspiring leaders and management, will be encouraged to emulate.

What are they learning? To begin with, they are learning to accept a startlingly low standard for “confidence.”

The President has now issued two statements that he has “confidence” in the Secret Service. The assessment has special significance because the health and safety, the very lives, of the President, his wife, his young children and his staff is in the Secret Service’s hands, and the agency would seem to have demonstrated beyond all doubt that it is incapable of meeting any reasonable expectations or trust. We know that the agents are barely trained, and that they lack professionalism and self discipline. We know that agents availed themselves of prostitutes in South America, and got drunk on duty in Amsterdam. We know that  a gunman fired at least seven bullets that struck the upstairs residence of the White House in 2011, aided by a botched Secret Service response, and that just this month a deranged fence-jumper got into the residence and was running amuck before he was stopped.

The Service’s statement on that incident was jaw-dropping, saying agents “showed tremendous restraint and discipline in dealing with” an intruder who could have had a bomb or deadly intent. How could this President, any President, any leader, any manager, have “confidence” in a security force under these circumstances, with its own management displaying such a bizarre attitude?

Well, I don’t know. It’s a brand new paradigm, the most lassez faire, gentle, kind,empathetic and understanding, hands-off, no-fault, no standards, no accountability leadership style I have ever seen at any management level higher than a lemonade stand. I’m sure many members of the public, especially those who goof off at their jobs, steal supplies, file fake reports, arrive to work stoned, never finish assigned tasks and think they have a right to keep their jobs and paychecks no matter how useless they are, would love to have Obama as a boss. Such a boss would express confidence in the most obviously inept and untrustworthy employee imaginable, and apparently mean it. And never, never fire him. Continue reading