Agency Personalities and the Cartagena Stupidity

We’ve heard a lot of quoting of the “rough men” thing, and that’s fair enough.

But the collective personalities of our various armed forces are not the same, as those of federal law enforcement agencies. They are not supposed to be exactly like local police departments, either.

The Department of the Treasury isn’t supposed to be hiring “wild and crazy guys” for the Secret Service. Treasury agents are supposed to be fairly introverted, compared to the other federal law enforcement agencies. Most of them are supposed to have accounting backgrounds, as opposed to the few traditionally hired by the FBI. They are supposed to get really into doing fairly abstract things, like looking for counterfeiters and bank hackers, or guarding American dignitaries of the Executive Branch at all times. The exciting stuff they do is supposed to be things like going out to their practice area and practicing defensive driving in souped-up limos, or practicing out on the range to better their amazing gun skills. Other than that, they’re supposed to be the kind of guys who relax by reading a book and having a beer, either at home alone or with their wife and kids. Wild and crazy is supposed to be a backyard barbecue with other Secret Service guys, where they drink multiple beers.

That was the Secret Service culture, because Treasury agents had to be incorruptible: not interested in bribes of money, drink, drugs, sex, or anything else; and not open to being blackmailed. This saved the Secret Service a lot of time and trouble. But now they’ve lost their tough reputation all around the world, and have advertised that they’re just as open to blackmail and bribes as a bunch of Banana Republic bodyguards auctioning off a coup.

So yeah, there’s plenty of reason to be disturbed about the Secret Service getting up to such shenanigans (especially the guys who passed out with hookers in their rooms, which was definitely a breach of security, and could have meant that their weapons and the President’s schedule walked out the door). Apparently, in the last twenty years or so, the Treasury Department has either changed its hiring practices, or the Secret Service has purposefully rejected its own institutional culture.

(The military culture can include “wild and crazy” for a lot of jobs, but I guarantee that as soon as someone approaches a job needing super-duper clearance, they start expecting said person to start acting much more circumspectly.)

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