Friday, September 18, 2020

Book Review: In the President’s Secret Service

 
Behind the scenes with agents in the line of fire and the presidents they protect.
Talk about timing: just when a publicity-seeking couple crashed a private party at the White House, there was Ron Kessler’s book prompting the reader to ask questions such as, “Why aren’t these people being prosecuted? Why continue to give them undeserved publicity?”
Clearly, the Secret Service erred and whoever was on duty that night should be either reprimanded and/or fired.
Author Kessler, a former reporter for the Washington Post and the Wall Street Journal with several journalism awards under his belt, wrote an easy-to-follow chatty, at times gossipy account of not just the characters the Secret Service protects (protectees) but how agents go about protecting them, or in some cases, trying to do their jobs under extreme odds. Not every president or presidential family appreciates the extra scrutiny while carrying on with extra-marital affairs, depending on their watchdogs to warn them of an approaching spouse. If you didn’t already have some preconceived notions about the temperaments of those in power at the White House, Kessler tells all that he knows. And he doesn’t stop with American ‘royal families’ either: he takes on the Secret Service itself and is quite critical of both its practices and its directors.
Following the latest breach of security at the White House Mark Sullivan, Secret Service Director since 2006 with a face not well-publicized previously, was televised shaking his head in disbelief and asking himself, “… a thousand times, how this could have happened?”
In the book, Sullivan compares and contrasts his men to soldiers in Iraq: “We don’t have it bad at all…….this whole organization owes it to the people that pay our salary to be just as efficient and effective and be as good a steward of the government resources as we can. And I think we are.”
Kessler, who might now offer Sullivan a little salt and pepper before he eats those words says, “Sullivan’s effort to compare Secret Service agents with twenty-two-year-old soldiers in Iraq shows how out of touch with reality Secret Service management is. In contrast to soldiers serving in Iraq, veteran Secret Service agents are being offered up to four times their salary by the private sector to leave the agency.”
Kessler’s biggest criticisms of the Service seem to be that its weapons are outdated, its agents are overworked and mistreated by being given assignments where they are forced to either uproot or be distant from their homes and families when openings exist where they live at home, and that they often do not have the time available to refresh their training.
Let’s face it: without human nature’s delight in dishing the dirt and enjoyment of a little inside information, there would be no reality television or market for books such as this one. It might not be as in-depth or explosive an investigation as the reader expects from an author who has written extensively on terrorism, the FBI and the CIA, but it offers quick entertainment.

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