Security Lapses and the Not So Secret History of Racism in the Secret Service

After the recent news release about bullets fired into the White House back in 2011, I thought I'd revisit some of the worrisome thoughts I've had for years about the Secret Service and the safety of President Obama and his family. Why are we supposed to automatically trust those assigned to the protection of the President when it is patently clear that security has been lax? Could racism inside the agency be one of the variables that comes into play?

In the spate of news articles and blogs about the Secret Service screw-ups recently, I find it interesting that few have linked the ongoing suit in the courts by black agents to what seems to be only slipshod security as a potential factor. 

We have been paying attention to racism in police departments. We know the history of racism in the FBI, promulgated by the now deceased (racist) J. Edgar Hoover. Back in 2001, the FBI had to settle a discrimination suit, brought by black agents.

Wending its way through the courts is this class action suit against the Secret Service:

Moore, et al v. Napolitano

The Secret Service has a long history of racial discrimination.  African-American Special Agents describe: African-American Agents being referred to as "ni--er" by peers and supervisors; an African-American Agent receiving a phone message after he transferred to a new office stating "You little Ni--er.  You better leave Philly or you'll never leave alive;" a high-performing African-American Agent being referred to as "Super Ni--er;" a swastika and the word "Ni--ers" being painted on the wall of a field office; and communications between African-American Agents being referred to as "ni--er talk." The environment of racial discrimination and hostility continues today in the Secret Service.  In April, 2008, a noose was found hanging in a secure building at the Secret Service's James J. Rowley Training Center in Beltsville, Maryland.  That same month, the Secret Service produced a series of racist emails that were sent to and from Secret Service e-mail accounts in just the last few years and involve at least twenty current or former Secret Service supervisors.


(n-word edits are mine)

When I read news reports of the investigations, like this one, they give me pause. Agents Discuss Alleged Racist Acts in Secret Service:

Leroy Hendricks, currently assigned to Vice President Al Gore's detail, described his first assignment while in the Springfield, Illinois, field office - advance work for Marilyn Quayle. He sat through a dinner with fellow agents and local police who told racial jokes all evening. "I thought it was an initiation," he said. Attorney Ron Schmidt said black agents assigned to protect Gore complained about the racial atmosphere on the detail, but the agency would not divulge its report on the complaints.

'Good Ole Boys'

Shaffer also revealed new evidence of Secret Service members being involved in the "Good Ole Boy Roundup" in Tennessee. The roundup has been described as a "whites-only" gathering of Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms (ATF) and other federal law-enforcement officers and at which these agents discriminated against blacks by posting racist signs, wearing racist T-shirts, performing racist skits and playing racist music. The roundup was allegedly held annually in Tennessee over a period of 16 years. "The roundup was the good ole boy roundup," Shaffer said, "and the good ole boys of the Secret Service still run this agency. They just do it covertly and secretly in private meetings held in Washington."

The lawsuit claims in two separate years a white Secret Service agent was elected president of the roundup, and one year an agent was elected, "Redneck of the Year."

At this morning's press conference, two agents who worked in the Atlanta field office said they knew of co-workers who attended the roundup and saw flyers promoting the event.

"They taunted me: 'You should come, you'd get a bang out of it,'" said former agent Janelle Walker Clark.

I know the Secret Service is promoted as an agency where every agent is willing to "take a bullet for the President" and agents are reportedly free from the taint of political positions. Interesting that a former agent, Dan Bongino is currently running for congress in Maryland as a TeaPublican wingnut, and is a current Fox favorite guest.

One of the most vocal congressional critics of the Secret Service has been the ranking member of the House Committee on Homeland Security Rep. Bennie Thompson, (D-Miss). He has been following the discrimination suit, has been a part of investigations of the "slip-ups" and recently called for the agency to be headed up by someone brought in from the outside, rather than someone who is part of the Secret Service culture. During the hearings and subsequent resignation of agency head Julia Pierson, he made this clear.

Several senior Democrats joined Republicans in saying the next director should come from outside the agency's insular culture.

"The Secret Service needs a seasoned law enforcement professional who is not a product of the Secret Service to bring about needed reforms," Rep. Bennie Thompson of Mississippi, the top Democrat on the House Homeland Security Committee, said in a statement.

Insular culture, from my perspective can also mean a culture in which racism is a factor in how well the agency protects a black President and his family.

What do you think?


Cross-posted from Black Kos

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