Three questions for Secret Service Director Julia Pierson, testifying this day before the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee regarding recent breaches of White House security:
Ms. Pierson, let’s try to lift this story beyond immediate incidents. Just about every establishment and institution in America has seen its public reputation lowered, its standing diminished in the past 25 years or so. Here in Congress, journalism, the law, the academy, the church—all have seen their reputations damaged the past quarter-century or so. But it seems to me almost no reputation has been damaged as much as that of the Secret Service. We used to make movies about them. They were the most disciplined, selfless and professional men. They were Clint Eastwood. Better than that, they were Rufus Youngblood, they were Tim McCarthy, who stood there like a little stone wall the day Reagan was shot and took a bullet. What mystique they had. And now—I’m going to be rude but blunt—they come across as a bunch of mooks. Security breaches, coverups, scandals with prostitutes, someone shoots at the White House and they don’t notice it. I want you to think aloud here to help us. Don’t be defensive, we won’t hold what you say against you. We will stipulate that many members of the Secret Service are heroic, selfless, brilliant. I accept that. But you’ve seen the decline. Ms. Pierson, what happened? Did it happen the past 25 years, or 10 years? What is the biggest reason for the decline of the Secret Service? I give you the rest of my time.
Ms. Pierson, when the Secret Service operated, bizarrely and yet with high effectiveness, under the Treasury Department, the Secret Service worked. That is when it developed its habits and traditions of excellence. That’s when it dazzled. After 9/11, in the great and huge government reorganization that followed, the Secret Service was put into the Department of Homeland Security. And from there, I think, we have seen deterioration and the falling of morale and competence. Am I seeing this right? Being under DHS is the problem, or part of it? In your personal view should the Secret Service be put back under Treasury?
Ms. Pierson, when stories like this become public, we can with a fair degree of confidence predict they will inspire others to attempt a similar act. When a man jumps the fence and gets to the East Room of the White House it alarms the law-abiding and peaceable and will tend to incite copycats, crazy men and extremists. What steps are you taking now—immediately—to at least temporarily beef up protection of the White House, the president and his family?