Skip to main content

Secret Service still the best and the brightest

By Jeffrey Robinson, Special to CNN
updated 11:01 AM EDT, Fri April 20, 2012
 US Secret Service agent stands by President Obama's limousine at Fort McHenry in Baltimore in 2010.
US Secret Service agent stands by President Obama's limousine at Fort McHenry in Baltimore in 2010.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Jeffrey Robinson: Bad behavior of 11 Secret Service agents has caused uproar over whole force
  • Time for a reality check, he says; president was not in danger
  • He says most agents proud, serious, willing to make big sacrifices for job
  • Robinson: Agents in scandal were stupid; now people playing politics

Editor's note: Jeffrey Robinson is the co-author of "Standing Next to History - An Agent's Life in the Secret Service," the autobiography of former United States Secret Service Special Agent, Joseph Petro. (St. Martins/Thomas Dunne Books. Available in both Kindle and Nook.) Follow him on Twitter.

(CNN) -- So a bunch of guys away from home, who should know better, take off their wedding rings, mix testosterone with alcohol and hookers --- an appalling combination --- argue over the price of a lady's company and, all of a sudden, the entire culture of the U.S. Secret Service is thrown into question.

All of a sudden, this is the worst disaster for the Secret Service, ever. All of a sudden, the Secret Service is out of control. All of a sudden, anything might have happened, like one of the 11 agents could have been blackmailed to open a door for a sniper or to look the other way as a bomb-carrying terrorist walks up to the president.

All of a sudden, the men and women of the Secret Service are no longer the best and the brightest. Especially the men.

All of a sudden... Stop!

Jeffrey Robinson
Jeffrey Robinson

It's time for a reality check.

The 11 agents who were sent home from Colombia in disgrace before the president even left Washington were there in a support role. Whether they were manning metal detectors or handling dogs that sweep rooms, whether they were part of a sniper team or standing post at 3 a.m. along a barricaded street, they were not members of the Presidential Protective Division (PPD). They were not on the president's shoulder. At no time was the president's security in danger.

Secret Service agents' risky behavior
Palin to Secret Service: You're fired
Congress wants answers about sex scandal

What damage did their stupidity do? Obviously, a lot to their personal lives, their marriages and their careers. Obviously, also, a lot to the image and reputation of the Secret Service.

The legislation creating the Secret Service was sitting on Abraham Lincoln's desk, waiting to be signed, on April 15, 1865, the night he was assassinated. In those days, the Secret Service was housed inside the Treasury Department, and its job was to protect and defend the currency and monetary instruments of the United States. It didn't get the supplementary duty of protecting the president and vice president until after William McKinley was assassinated in 1901.

No agent I have ever met was hired for his sense of humor. These are very serious men and women who do their jobs very seriously.

They have always been the best and the brightest.

And they still are.

You can see it in the way they stand a little taller and walk with a different gait than others in law enforcement. You can see it in their pride. Frankly, I can't think of any other law enforcement agency where pride counts as much as it does with the Secret Service. It's the same pride that is always so visible with the U.S. Marines.

That's the reason why this scandal matters. Not because someone thinks the agency is out of control. It's not. Not because of wildly exaggerated threats of blackmail. No, Chicken Little, the sky is not falling. It matters because the idiotic actions of 11 agents who forgot who they are and what their badge stands for deeply affects every active duty agent and tens of thousands of retired agents. Pride has been dented. And agents are, rightly, furious.

These are men and women who have made -- and continue to make -- huge personal sacrifices for their share in that pride. The divorce rate among agents is high. That's not because they party with hookers, but because for the privilege of wearing that special five starred badge, they abandon any thoughts of their time being their own. They miss birthdays and Christmas, Little League games, graduations, school plays, first teeth, first steps, first words.

When the president travels, especially overseas, it's a flying circus with 800-1,000 people, limousines, helicopters, communications equipment, big guns, small guns, sometimes food, and often 20-30 planes.

As an integral part of this, Secret Service agents have two main concerns: To create and to maintain a tightly controlled environment in which the president can do his job safely and to bring everyone home at night.

Anything short of that is, the way the Secret Service defines the word, failure.

Just as those two things are true, so are these: What happened with those 11 agents is defined as stupidity. They will be dealt with quickly by the Secret Service. The president's opponents will pretend that there are political ramifications and invent whatever capital out of this that they can to embarrass the president. It will take a long time before pride is fully restored, and, if this ever happens again, it will definitely not be soon.

Follow us on Twitter: @CNNOpinion

Join us at Facebook/CNNOpinion

The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Jeffrey Robinson.

ADVERTISEMENT
Part of complete coverage on
updated 1:33 AM EST, Thu December 25, 2014
Danny Cevallos says the legislature didn't have to get involved in regulating how people greet each other
updated 6:12 PM EST, Tue December 23, 2014
Marc Harrold suggests a way to move forward after the deaths of NYPD officers Wenjian Liu and Rafael Ramos.
updated 8:36 AM EST, Wed December 24, 2014
Simon Moya-Smith says Mah-hi-vist Goodblanket, who was killed by law enforcement officers, deserves justice.
updated 2:14 PM EST, Wed December 24, 2014
Val Lauder says that for 1,700 years, people have been debating when, and how, to celebrate Christmas
updated 3:27 PM EST, Tue December 23, 2014
Raphael Sperry says architects should change their ethics code to ban involvement in designing torture chambers
updated 10:35 PM EST, Tue December 23, 2014
Paul Callan says Sony is right to call for blocking the tweeting of private emails stolen by hackers
updated 7:57 AM EST, Tue December 23, 2014
As Christmas arrives, eyes turn naturally toward Bethlehem. But have we got our history of Christmas right? Jay Parini explores.
updated 11:29 PM EST, Mon December 22, 2014
The late Joe Cocker somehow found himself among the rock 'n' roll aristocracy who showed up in Woodstock to help administer a collective blessing upon a generation.
updated 4:15 PM EST, Tue December 23, 2014
History may not judge Obama kindly on Syria or even Iraq. But for a lame duck president, he seems to have quacking left to do, says Aaron Miller.
updated 1:11 PM EST, Tue December 23, 2014
Terrorism and WMD -- it's easy to understand why these consistently make the headlines. But small arms can be devastating too, says Rachel Stohl.
updated 1:08 PM EST, Mon December 22, 2014
Ever since "Bridge-gate" threatened to derail Chris Christie's chances for 2016, Jeb Bush has been hinting he might run. Julian Zelizer looks at why he could win.
updated 1:53 PM EST, Sat December 20, 2014
New York's decision to ban hydraulic fracturing was more about politics than good environmental policy, argues Jeremy Carl.
updated 3:19 PM EST, Sat December 20, 2014
On perhaps this year's most compelling drama, the credits have yet to roll. But we still need to learn some cyber lessons to protect America, suggest John McCain.
updated 5:39 PM EST, Mon December 22, 2014
Conservatives know easing the trade embargo with Cuba is good for America. They should just admit it, says Fareed Zakaria.
updated 8:12 PM EST, Fri December 19, 2014
We're a world away from Pakistan in geography, but not in sentiment, writes Donna Brazile.
updated 12:09 PM EST, Fri December 19, 2014
How about a world where we have murderers but no murders? The police still chase down criminals who commit murder, we have trials and justice is handed out...but no one dies.
updated 6:45 PM EST, Thu December 18, 2014
The U.S. must respond to North Korea's alleged hacking of Sony, says Christian Whiton. Failing to do so will only embolden it.
updated 4:34 PM EST, Fri December 19, 2014
President Obama has been flexing his executive muscles lately despite Democrat's losses, writes Gloria Borger
updated 2:51 PM EST, Thu December 18, 2014
Jeff Yang says the film industry's surrender will have lasting implications.
updated 4:13 PM EST, Thu December 18, 2014
Newt Gingrich: No one should underestimate the historic importance of the collapse of American defenses in the Sony Pictures attack.
updated 7:55 AM EST, Wed December 10, 2014
Dean Obeidallah asks how the genuine Stephen Colbert will do, compared to "Stephen Colbert"
updated 12:34 PM EST, Thu December 18, 2014
Some GOP politicians want drug tests for welfare recipients; Eric Liu says bailed-out execs should get equal treatment
updated 8:42 AM EST, Thu December 18, 2014
Louis Perez: Obama introduced a long-absent element of lucidity into U.S. policy on Cuba.
updated 12:40 PM EST, Tue December 16, 2014
The slaughter of more than 130 children by the Pakistani Taliban may prove as pivotal to Pakistan's security policy as the 9/11 attacks were for the U.S., says Peter Bergen.
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT