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Columns : The Federal Voice

The Secret Service: The Media's Punching Bag

It's open season on the Secret Service, and every biased reporter is frothing at the mouth and ready to pounce.

April 29, 2015  |  by Jon Adler

After reading Marc Ambinder's March 15 article in Politico titled, "Hi. I'm the Secret Service. And I'm an alcoholic," I had to question his state of mind when he wrote it. He clearly missed the lessons learned from Ferguson and the unwarranted assassination of Officer Darren Wilson's character by unreliable sources.

While Ambinder was quick to label two senior law enforcement officers as drunks and criticize them for allegedly encroaching on a crime scene, he ignored their right to due process and he failed to do his fact-checking. Instead, Ambinder followed the biased news media's mantra: Blame first, fact-check later.

Ambinder wrote, "...two high ranking Secret Service agents, while drunk, allegedly drove themselves into a crash barrier at the White House, disrupting a tense investigation into a suspicious package nearby." What's really heartbreaking is Ambinder's undocumented conclusion that the agents were "drunk."

Where is his evidence? Does Ambinder have breathalyzer results that the rest of us haven't seen? Did he get an affidavit from a bartender that the agents consumed a specified volume of alcoholic beverages in the relevant time period? Did he view White House video that depicted two stumbling law enforcement officers? Did a special agent with the Office of Inspector General whisper in his ear that the agents were drunk? What's his professional basis for labeling the two agents as drunk? He couldn't even summon an iota of journalistic integrity and insert the word "allegedly" before stating the agents were drunk.

Ambinder's accusations are clearly wrong. We already know that the initial accounts of the agents allegedly driving recklessly, knocking over barriers, and driving over the suspicious package were false.

So what was the foundation for Ambinder's story? He built it on the comments of an anonymous officer who allegedly smelled alcohol emanating from both agents' mouths. With such a lack of substantiation, I'm surprised Ambinder didn't work a "Hands up, don't shoot," allegation into his sensationalized account.

Not content with disparaging these agents as being drunk, Ambinder goes on to write that "There is nothing scandalous about the conduct of high-functioning alcoholics in the Secret Service." Whom exactly is he referring to? Is it acceptable for Ambinder to employ inflammatory conclusions without substantiating his basis for characterizing agents as "high-functioning alcoholics?" This type of hype journalism would seem to fit better in the MAD Magazine than Politico.

Ambinder also wrote about his former "hero worship" for Secret Service agents. My advice to Ambinder is that he redirect his hero worship fantasies to Marvel superheroes. Secret Service special agents and officers are real people exposed to real risks; they suffer real pain and bleed real blood. Contrary to Ambinder's faulty conclusion that a criminal may attempt to exploit a "hung over" agent and attack, the truth is they would be more likely to exploit him. Violent criminals who target public officials are motivated, in part, by the prospect of notoriety afforded by reporters who might glamorize their behavior. Mentally deranged criminals are more focused on published news media gibberish than the speculative dehydration levels of agents. But why should Ambinder care that he recklessly labeled two highly respected senior agents as drunks? He'll just move on to his next story, leaving the two agents with the unenviable task of salvaging their reputations.

We are all aware this incident was reported to the Office of Inspector General in a timely manner. The OIG employs experienced criminal investigators who understand due process and legal procedure. Rather than wait for OIG's findings, Ambinder unfortunately felt compelled to rely on unsubstantiated hearsay to levy a character assassination on two senior special agents.

It is also important to note that the one person most dependent on the Secret Service's protection refrained from making premature judgments and demonstrated his respect for due process. I don't think President Obama would remain reticent if he thought "high-functioning alcoholics" were responsible for protecting his family. In fact, he knows better, and has confidence in an agency of professionals who are the best in providing protection for dignitaries.

Perhaps Ambinder will realize how demeaning his article was to the law enforcement officers willing to lay down their lives to protect the First Family, and his next will be titled, "Hi. I'm a biased news reporter. And I'm a hypeaholic."

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