Originally published on March 12, 2015, at NationofChange.org
In yet another example of misconduct and incompetence, the Department of Homeland Security’s inspector general has launched an investigation into two Secret Service agents caught on surveillance camera driving drunk and crashing into a White House barricade. Besides driving under the influence, the agents also disturbed an active bomb investigation by possibly driving over the suspicious package. Instead of allowing law enforcement officials to arrest the agents or determine their blood alcohol content, a Secret Service supervisor simply decided to send them home.
Around 10:25pm on March 4, a Pennsylvania woman exited a blue Toyota near the southeast entrance of the White House carrying a package wrapped in a green shirt. As the woman approached a Secret Service agent, she shouted at him that she was holding a bomb. After placing the package on the ground, the woman ran back to her vehicle and jumped inside with the agent in pursuit.
Opening the front passenger door, the agent ordered the woman to exit the vehicle when she put the car in reverse. After the open door struck the agent, he managed to reach inside the car and force it into park. But the woman shifted it back into drive and sped off before the agent could stop her. Officers immediately secured the area with police tape and called the bomb squad to check the package for explosives.
During that time, Secret Service agents Mark Connolly and George Ogilvie were returning from a party at a bar about eight blocks away from the White House where they had been drinking and celebrating the retirement of departing Secret Service spokesman Edwin Donovan. While driving drunk through the police tape and interrupting an active investigation, the agents crashed into a temporary barricade in their government vehicle shortly before 11pm. According to witnesses and video footage, investigators believe the inebriated agents may have driven over the suspicious package.
As officers attempted to arrest Connolly and Ogilvie, a senior supervisor appeared and allegedly ordered the officers to release the agents without conducting field sobriety tests. Instead of punishing the agents, the supervisor ordered Connolly and Ogilvie to return home. At 11:45pm, the bomb squad determined the suspicious item was not a threat and instead turned out to be a book.
Two days later, the Secret Service found the woman and charged her with assault with a dangerous weapon for trying to run over an agent with her car. Instead of placing the intoxicated agents on administrative leave, Secret Service Director Joseph Clancy transferred Connolly, the second-in-command on President Obama’s detail; and Ogilvie, a senior supervisor in the Washington field office; to non-supervisory, non-operational assignments. Due to the fact that the incident involves senior officials, the Department of Homeland Security inspector general will handle the investigation instead of allowing the Secret Service to conduct an internal review of the charges.
The incident is merely the latest example of a history marred with misconduct and incompetence. On October 1, 2014, former Secret Service Director Julia Pierson resigned after lying to congressional members regarding her failure to disclose all security breaches to President Obama. On September 19, 2014, Iraq war veteran Omar Gonzalez leapt over the fence at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue and broke into the White House equipped with a three-inch serrated knife. During a visit to the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention three days earlier, President Obama entered an elevator accompanied by an armed private contractor with three convictions for assault and battery.
In May 2013, Secret Service supervisor Ignacio Zamora left a bullet in a woman’s hotel room and attempted to force his way back into the room to retrieve it. In March 2013, three members of the Secret Service’s Counter Assault Team were placed on paid administrative leave after one of them was found passed out drunk in a hallway by hotel staff in Amsterdam. Days before President Obama’s arrival to the international summit in Cartagena in 2012, multiple Secret Service and DEA agents were caught purchasing prostitutes in Colombia.
On November 11, 2011, Oscar Ramiro Ortega-Hernandez fired a semi-automatic rifle at the White House while Sasha Obama was home. The Secret Service realized four days later that seven bullets had hit the White House only after a maid noticed broken glass and pieces of cement on the Truman balcony.
“The Secret Service has suffered from a lack of leadership and that has had a detrimental impact on security, training, protocols, and overall culture,” stated Rep. Jason Chaffetz, the chairman of the House Oversight Committee.
In 1961, President John F. Kennedy appointed the first black Secret Service agent to the Presidential Protective Division. During an interview with ABC News, former Secret Service agent Abraham Bolden admitted that his white colleagues repeatedly drank on the job.
“I told the chief of the Secret Service this, that if anything happens, that if an emergency situation happens with President Kennedy, that their reflexes are gonna be in such a condition that they won’t be able to respond,” recalled Bolden. “And Dallas, Texas, proved that I was right.”