Posts Tagged ‘Secret Service’
Secret Service confiscates forks at Obama speech to Latino officials – Obama Thinks the Latino’s are Dangerous
Do forks present a national security threat to President Obama?
On Friday afternoon, the Secret Service confiscated forks and dinner knives at a luncheon for the National Association of Latino Elected Officials (NALEO) before President Obama spoke.
About 1000 guests at the luncheon were told they needed to hand over their silverware for security reasons, Politico reported.
“It’s very important that you use your utensils as soon as possible,” NALEO board member Raquel Regalado said, hurrying the diners to finish their salads and pre-cut chicken breasts.
“As you know, we’re having another speaker and there is some Secret Service involved. So there’s a reason why there’s no knives at your table and the forks will be collected,” she added.
“And I’m not joking.”
According to Politico, the Secret Service required that all forks be rounded up before President Obama entered the room, and no dinner knives would be allowed.
“The Secret Service coordinates this process with staff and host committee to ensure tables are cleared of material that may be deemed hazardous prior to the arrival of the president,” Special Agent Max Milien told POLITICO. “Any implication that this was unique for this event is completely inaccurate.”
Politico noted that the President attends many events where diners have their silverware as he speaks, but Milien did not speak to that discrepancy.
“If we were talking about Mitt Romney, who spoke to the same group earlier in the week, the MSM headline probably would have been something along the lines of ‘Presumptive GOP nominee doesn’t trust Latino audience with forks,’” Doug Powers wrote at Michelle Malkin’s web site.
Warner Todd Huston wrote at Breitbart.com that New York Magazine’s Dan Amira “showed photos of the many times Obama has been in a room with “fork wielding strangers.”
“If a republican president had done the same thing, it would have been treated as prima facie evidence of racism,” he added, observing that the attendees were “elected officials and their staffs, not just the average Jose off the street.”
Politico tried to explain the discrepancy by saying that “there is plenty of silverware at large events like the White House Correspondents Dinner.”
“However,” Politico added, “those on the dais are well known to the White House and Obama does not plunge into the crowd there. After the speech Friday, Obama spent about six minutes shaking hands along a so-called ropeline in front of the crowd.”
The photos posted by Amira, however, show the President co-existing with silverware in what appears to be a fast food restaurant or a diner, not a large venue like the White House Correspondent’s Dinner.
Amira asked: “Why was it determined that Obama and forks can no longer coexist peacefully? Did the Secret Service pick up some intelligence on an unspecified fork threat to the president?”
“We have contacted them for answers, and we will report back to you as soon as possible,” he wrote.
The Secret Service on Wednesday announced the departure of three employees connected to a prostitution scandal last week involving members of President Obama’s security detail who were in Cartagena, Colombia.
As the agency tried to manage the fallout from the embarrassing episode, it said in a statement that one agent is expected to resign and another, a supervisor, intends to retire. A third, also a supervisor, has been recommended for firing but will have an opportunity to appeal, officials said.
The agency and the Defense Department are each investigating the alleged misconduct. The remaining eight Secret Service personnel are on administrative leave, and their top-secret security clearances have been suspended. The military has returned its service members to their home bases.
“We demand that all of our employees adhere to the highest professional and ethical standards and are committed to a full review of this matter,” the Secret Service said in a statement.
Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-La.), chairman of the Senate Appropriations subcommittee on homeland security, called the men’s alleged misbehavior a “gross violation of public trust.”
The allegations — and accompanying negative publicity — have deeply angered rank-and-file members of the Secret Service, severely lowering morale at the agency.
In interviews, current and former agents said they are particularly outraged by the alleged involvement of the two senior supervisors, both of whom have two decades of experience and were sent on the trip to oversee the less-experienced members of the team. Both of those supervisors have spent significant time on presidential protective details, dating to the Clinton administration, according to current and former agents. The two are based in Washington.
“I was really disappointed. I’ve learned a lot from both of these guys,” said one agent, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to talk to reporters. “I was surprised they were involved. Especially because they are senior people.”
Those familiar with details of the investigation said the two supervisors were sent to Cartagena as leaders of Secret Service “jump teams,” squads made up of several dozen special agents and uniformed officers that are deployed to a site in the days before the president arrives.
It is customary for the jump teams to fly aboard giant Lockheed military transport aircraft, nicknamed “car planes,” which also carry the presidential limousine, Chevy Suburbans and other vehicles that make up the president’s motorcade.
Several of the agents reportedly were part of the elite counter-assault team, which reports to the special operations division, not the presidential protective detail. The rest were uniformed officers who work with bomb-sniffing dogs or magnetometers.
When members of the group arrived in Cartagena, they joined an advance team of White House staff, military and Secret Service members and U.S. Embassy officials that had been on the ground for two weeks, holding nightly “countdown meetings” to mark their planning progress.
But for the Secret Service agents and officers on the car planes, who were among the last to arrive, there wasn’t a lot to do before Obama showed up, according to people familiar with the trip.
11 Secret Service agents put on leave amid prostitution inquiry
The U.S. Secret Service on Saturday placed 11 agents on administrative leave as the agency investigates allegations that the men brought prostitutes to their hotel rooms in Cartagena, Colombia, on Wednesday night and that a dispute ensued with one of the women over payment the following morning.
Secret Service Assistant Director Paul S. Morrissey said the agents had violated the service’s “zero-tolerance policy on personal misconduct” during their trip to prepare for President Obama’s arrival at an international summit this weekend.
A dozen Secret Service agents sent to Colombia to provide security for President Obama at an international summit have been relieved of duty because of allegations of misconduct.
“We regret any distraction from the Summit of the Americas this situation has caused,” Morrissey said in a statement.
The rapidly unfolding scandal has upstaged Obama’s trip to the summit, where he is discussing trade and the economy with 32 other heads of state. Though the agency has said Obama’s security was not compromised, the allegations of misconduct have brought intense scrutiny to an agency that had not had a major lapse since 2009, when two party crashers entered the White House uninvited.
The situation deteriorated further Saturday when the Defense Department announced that five military personnel, who are staying at the same hotel, violated curfew Wednesday night and have been confined to their rooms. The department will conduct its own investigation upon their return to the United States, said Air Force Gen. Douglas Fraser of the U.S. Southern Command, where the military personnel were from.
Fraser said he was “disappointed by the entire incident and . . . this behavior is not in keeping with the professional standards expected of members of the United States military.”
Rep. Peter T. King (R-N.Y.), chairman of the Homeland Security Committee, said Saturday that Secret Service officials conducting an internal investigation told him that the staff at the Hotel Caribe summoned local police after discovering a woman in the room of one agent after 7 a.m., against the hotel’s policy for visitors of paying guests.
Although the agent eventually paid the woman and she left, King added, police reported the incident to the U.S. Embassy, which informed the Secret Service. The agency quickly recalled the agents and replaced them with a new team before Obama’s arrival Friday afternoon at the Hilton a few blocks away.
King praised the agency for removing the men involved, but he added that “everything they did was a violation of proper conduct.”
“First of all, to be getting involved with prostitutes in a foreign country can leave yourself vulnerable to blackmail and threats,” King said. “To be bringing prostitutes or almost anyone into a security zone when you’re supposed to protect the president is totally wrong.”
Briefing reporters in Cartagena, press secretary Jay Carney said the White House learned of the incident Thursday and Obama was informed Friday.
“This has not been a distraction,” Carney said. “It has been much more so for the press than for the president, who is going on with his work here.”
The Hotel Caribe is in Bocagrande, a seaside district of Cartagena. It’s not a colonial hotel, like those in the old walled city, but rather an elegant, decades-old structure that is considered a national patrimony. Locals consider it a good place to party — there is a beachfront bar-restaurant in front of the hotel and inside it has gardens and bars.
Any presidential trip, but especially those abroad, involve immense manpower and logistical planning that can take place weeks before the president arrives, experts said.
Typically, on a foreign trip, more than 200 federal officials from the Secret Service, Defense Department and White House staff are sent to the site two weeks ahead of the event. Once the president arrives on Air Force One, usually with a support plane and press charter plane in tow, an additional 200 people or more join the original group.
Several people familiar with the Cartagena investigation described a night of partying by members of the advance team, who created enough of a disturbance in the Hotel Caribe that hotel employees asked the group to quiet down more than once.
Prostitution is legal in Colombia, but soliciting women for paid sexual favors is against Secret Service policy. It is not clear how many of the 11 agents, some of whom are reportedly married, had sexual encounters with the women or whether it was clear to all of them that the women expected to be paid.
One person with close ties to the Secret Service, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to speak freely about an ongoing investigation, said he was told by agents that the woman involved in the dispute “freaked out” after she was not paid and banged on walls and doors in the hotel hallways.
But King described a calmer scene. He said that under hotel policy, any overnight guest of a paying guest must leave photo identification at the front desk and leave the hotel by 7 a.m. the next morning.
According to King, one of the 11 women had not left the hotel by 7 a.m. Thursday, prompting hotel officials to knock on the door of the room. When nobody answered, hotel officials summoned police officers, King said.
Once police opened the door, the woman and the agent had a brief dispute over payment, King said, but the agent eventually paid the woman and she left.
Colombian police made no arrests because prostitution is legal in the country, but they turned over to the embassy a list of U.S. personnel staying at the hotel.
King said U.S. Secret Service Special Agent in Charge Paula Reid, based in Miami, rushed to remove the officers from the country Thursday.
Ralph Basham, director of the Secret Service from 2003 to 2006, said he spoke with current agency Director Mark J. Sullivan, and Basham called the agents’ alleged conduct “totally out of bounds.” But Basham defended the agency’s quick action in removing the agents from Cartagena.
“Clearly, they made a huge mistake,” he said. “But to try to tie this somehow to impacting the security of the president of the United States is just outrageous. It did not.”
Staff writers Joe Davidson, Peter Finn and Scott Wilson and correspondent Juan Forero contributed to this report. Wilson and Forero reported from Cartagena.