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Wed Oct 1, 2014, 12:40 PM

Systems & Secret Service [View all]

The recent attention given to the failures of the Secret Service is troubling, indeed; yet it has the potential to bring about positive changes before a national tragedy occurs. Even the current director was unable to make the case that things are improving, when she testified before a congressional committee yesterday. In fact, a leak to the media documented that she was not fully honest in her testimony regarding recent shortcomings.

It is -- obviously -- unacceptable to have this series of failures at any time. But it is especially troubling when these events take place at a time when the threats against the current president are at an all-time high. Although one can only speculate as to why events are unfolding exactly as they are, there are two general theories that tend to explain what we are witnessing. By no coincidence, the two have some degree of overlap.

The first of these is “systems.” The Secret Service was formed in the 1800s, as a branch of the Treasury Department, to focus on counterfeiting. It soon was tasked with providing protection to the President of the United States. Hence, it can accurately be described as a bureaucracy, which is important in two senses. First, a bureaucracy is simply a system that seeks to identify the most common solution to a given problem among a group of people -- in this case, those who would seek to create fake money, and those who seek to harm the president.

The second system’s dynamic is that, as a general rule, all bureaucracies seek to expand. In the context of government agencies, we see this at “budget time,” when the heads of agencies request more funding for current programming, as well as for new programs that they claim are necessary to meet new circumstances. Thus, the tensions between those holding the purse strings, and the agencies requesting more funds.(There is evidence, in this case, that the recent republican “shut down” of the federal government may be an important factor in recent events.)

Within the larger bureaucracy of the Secret Service, our attention should be focused primarily upon that section tasked with protecting President Obama and his family. Specifically, we should consider those employed at the level of guarding the White House and President Obama as he travels. In doing so, I would start with the idea that most, if not all, of those taking that job do so for good reasons. That job demands that, if called upon by circumstance, the individual will lay down his or her life to protect the president.

From that starting point, one can recognize that the job involves a potential for high levels of stress. The individual must maintain a high level of alertness. This, despite the fact that on the average day, no drastic incident takes place. Such jobs, by design, tend to take a toll upon the individual. Though not an excuse, it is the explanation of much of the bad behaviors that have taken place over the years, including the heavy drinking and associated misdeeds reported in recent years.

This does not imply that all of the agents are burned out, and hung over on the job. But it can be enough of a problem to make for some “weak links” in the security details, which compromises its effectiveness. And it could explain how a “lone nut” was able to enter to enter the White House.

The other school of thought focuses more on how a group of people who strongly oppose President Obama might seek to exploit the weak links in the system, either to intimidate or harm him. I suspect that every thinking American would recognize that recent events might embolden foreign enemies of the United States to attempt to harm President Obama. More, while it is uncomfortable to think about, there may be domestic interests -- beyond the lone wolf, Lee Harvey Oddball -- who could have similar intents.

Indeed, the amount of sheer hatred that is being aimed at President Obama helps to create a very dangerous climate. It goes way, way beyond the sport of politics. I recognize that politics isn’t a pillow fight, but far too much of the republican opposition -- mostly aimed towards the unhinged members of the Tea Party -- has saturated our nation with a clinically paranoid form of hatred. It appeals to racism and violence. It is purposeful, and it, too, is systematic.

As I’ve noted here in the past, I like to view “systems” by using the model of a mobile, such as those used to hang over an infant’s crib. In the context of the US, each government system makes one piece of a larger mobile; likewise, the US is a piece of the global mobile. Those of us residing in the US who are appalled by the fear and hatred all around us need to consider the option of a truly non-violent, peace movement. It won’t repair the Secret Service, of course, but it would add a much-needed piece to the US mobile. Our future hangs in the balance.

H2O Man

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H2O Man Oct 2014 OP
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