The concerns are not ill founded. Several years ago, members of Clinton's protective advance team were alarmed to find that an unidentified group was following them and tracking their movements. Current agents declined to discuss any protective matters, but several sources say that since then, the Secret Service has implemented a new policy of sending a separate team of agents to watch the backs of the agents doing the advance planning for trips by high-level protectees. They have modeled their new security plan on the British Secret Service.
FITNESS FOR DUTY
Threats like that, even before September 11, are precisely why so many still in the service, and others who have recently left, are concerned by the lapses they say they're seeing now. In just the past few months, there have been several instances of Secret Service agents' driving under the influence of alcohol, even to their posts at the White House. One agent received no punishment. The other agent was taken off the PPD. He had had a previous incident involving alcohol, sources say, an incident that not only went unsanctioned but that didn't prevent a promotion to the president's detail. In the San Diego bar-fight incident, the service says, it took no formal disciplinary action against the agents. According to a 20-page report by the Treasury Department's inspector general, the Secret Service has tolerated alcohol-related misconduct by employees. In August 1995, according to the report, an officer received a "fitness for duty" exam only after four incidents of suspected drunken driving in an eight-month period. In one of those cases, police at the scene confiscated the officer's service weapon for fear of what the officer might do. Still, the officer remained on the force—until he was convicted, in February 1999, of driving while intoxicated. Only then did the service issue him a "proposal for removal" for "conduct unbecoming" an officer. Other details of the case could not be learned.
Showing up for work intoxicated could obviously result in a security breach. But some instances of public drunkenness involving Secret Service personnel simply blemish the Secret Service's storied history of service and valor. In late January, a contingent of about 20 Secret Service agents bunked in at the Western Inn motel in Provo, Utah, on security assignment to the Winter Olympics in nearby Salt Lake City. In the wee hours of February 1, some of the agents hosted a loud party, leading resident manager Casey Clements to plead for quiet. Clements also asked the agents, who he said were clearly inebriated, to stop smoking. "They said, 'We don't have to do anything we don't want,' " Clements recalls. An hour later, the noise grew louder. Clements called the room. Someone hung up. He made another visit, pushing against a partially open door behind which an agent was peering out. "That upset him," Clements says. "He pushed me out of the door and said if I did that again, he'd throw me to the ground, put a gun to my head, and I'd be sorry." Days later, it was learned that the officers may have been drinking with several teenage girls. Local police have been investigating whether a sexual assault took place, after hearing of the incident indirectly. The service had not reported to Utah authorities any involvement of the agents with the girls. The Utah County attorney's office is investigating; the Secret Service is cooperating. The episode left Clements with a bad feeling. "I guess I don't trust law enforcement like I used to," he says. "The agents that threatened me, they were just, like, 'We're above the law.' " Spokesman Irving says one of the three special agents resigned. The other two remain "in an administrative leave status," says Irving, "pending possible prosecutorial action."
The U.S. News inquiry revealed other problems. Secret Service agents assigned to the elite Counter Assault Team (CAT), which responds to any attack on the president, sometimes watch pornography on White House satellite channels in the "band room" in the basement of the executive mansion. That's where the CAT stashes its weapons and the Marine Band keeps its instruments. When the president and first lady retire for the night, several sources say, agents will often "put some skin on." Other agents watch pornographic videotapes on the ground floor of the mansion but only after posting an agent as a lookout, the sources add. If a female Uniformed Division officer approaches, the posted agent clicks three times in an agent's earpiece, to give him time to change channels.