Secret Service agents
After two weeks of disturbing revelations about a tawdry prostitution scandal, the Secret Service and its supporters are circling the wagons to restore the "secret" part of its mission, The Associated Press.
Retired agents have been instructed to stop talking to reporters. Secret Service agents are dismantling Facebook accounts, hanging up on reporters and notifying headquarters — even calling police — when journalists knock on their doors at home for interviews about the investigation.
"What purpose do these revelations, true or exaggerated, serve? What ever happened to one's pride in being discreet and keeping a confidence?" asked the president of the Association of Former Agents of the U.S. Secret Service, Pete Cavicchia, in an email to members. Cavicchia, head of a New York-based security and investigations firm, praised retired agents who declined interviews, urged others to "exercise the proper caution" and added, "We as an organization and individually do not have to add to the damage and speculation at this time."
Cavicchia said Monday that the email speaks for itself.
The scandal and what it's revealed about the culture inside the Secret Service have been a shock to an agency that is famously discreet. More than a dozen Secret Service agents contacted by The Associated Press have abruptly hung up or declined to return multiple messages to discuss their agency and former coworkers. One reported it to headquarters when an AP reporter visited his home in the evening; some retired officials who were interviewed quickly notified headquarters about what questions reporters were asking.
A police officer came to the Annapolis, Md., home of Greg Stokes — one of the employees who already has lost his job in the scandal — and directed an AP reporter to leave his property. At the home in Virginia of another employee who also lost his job, David Chaney, the Loudoun County Sheriff's Office parked a patrol car — sometimes two of them. A deputy reprimanded reporters who came to the front door.
Chaney made his Facebook account inaccessible after he was identified as one of the officers involved, but not before reporters found it. Chaney joked on the account about his work with former Republican vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin while he was protecting her in 2008. The AP published a photograph it took of Chaney working in Palin's protective detail in October 2008 during a campaign rally in Carson, Calif.
A former agent, who spoke to the AP on condition of anonymity to protect relationships with current agents, said senior officials have kept a tight rein on information about the continuing investigation about what happened in Colombia.
The silence shouldn't be surprising for an agency whose job involves keeping secrets, said Jessica Herrera-Flanigan, a former general counsel for the House Committee on Homeland Security who is now a partner with a Washington consulting firm. "It's a discreet organization. That's part of its mission," she said. "If you are dealing with the Secret Service or any type of intelligence agency you are going to see the same kind of response."
In Washington, where Secret Service Director Mark Sullivan has briefed members of Congress and President Barack Obama about the investigation, the Secret Service has issued only limited public statements since the April 12 incident, which implicated a dozen agents, officers and supervisors and 12 other U.S. military personnel in a night of heavy drinking in Cartagena, Colombia, before Obama's visit to the Summit of the Americas. Some were accused of bringing prostitutes back to their hotel rooms.