The Secret Service is claiming that this is standard operating procedure: destroy or otherwise render useless within 72 hours of an incident any evidence that makes them look bad.
This is hardly the worst thing the Secret Service has been involved with, but it’s just one more thing on top of everything else they’ve done. They’ll take advantage of every opportunity to try to repair their tarnished image.
In this recent case, the Secret Service was conducting a bomb investigation into a suspicious package that a woman dropped near a White House entrance, claiming that it was a bomb.
During the bomb investigation when the area was cordoned off, two Secret Service agents, who had just been out drinking and were more than likely drunk, drove through the barricade and came very close to running over the suspicious package, which turned out to be nothing more than a book shrouded in a green shirt.
The official on duty at the time wanted to have these agents submit to a breathalyzer test and have them arrested, but an order from higher up instructed the official to let them go home without being tested. The two inebriated agents were let go and were assigned to other jobs while the agency investigated them.
And apparently, the surveillance tapes that captured the incident were erased, according to the Washington Examiner:
The Secret Service told members of Congress that the majority of the surveillance videos documenting the latest allegations of misconduct, a March 4 crash at the White House, have been erased and that the destruction of the tapes is standard operating procedure.
Rep. Jason Chaffetz, R-Utah, said Secret Service Director Joseph Clancy showed him two existing surveillance tapes of that night, when two Secret Service agents have been accused of bumping into a White House barricade while driving after a night of drinking, but they offered only severely limited views of the sequence of events that night.
Chaffetz specifically said the videos available weren’t definitive on a key accusation — whether the two senior agents accused of driving drunk were intoxicated and driving erratically.
The Utah Republican was even more stunned about the explanation he received from Clancy on why the tapes were so limited. Clancy, in a closed-door session Tuesday, told Chaffetz and other members of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee that it’s normal policy for the agency to erase surveillance tapes of the White House grounds after 72 hours.
“I don’t think anyone in that room could believe it,” Chaffetz told CBS News, who first reported about the destruction of the tapes.
“That’s just a stunning revelation that 72 hours after they make a tape, they destroy it? That doesn’t make any sense to us.
“If it’s regular policy to destroy them after 72 hours, why did they have two of the tapes, and where are the rest of the tapes? And so far the Secret Service has not been able to answer the question,” he said.
So, the Secret Service hasn’t gotten around to destroying all the surveillance footage. Just the tapes that mattered. If the video didn’t capture anything definitive, then it didn’t have to be erased.
Chaffetz had a good question that will probably not be answered anytime soon by the Secret Service. If it really is standard operating procedure to erase all surveillance footage of White House grounds within 72 hours, then why wasn’t it all erased? It just so happens that the only footage that was erased was the footage that probably captured everything. And my guess is that it made it pretty obvious that the two agents were drunk and driving erratically.
At this point, I don’t know what’s worse. The fact that there were two high-ranking officials driving drunk right through a bomb investigation, or the fact that the higher-ups are trying desperately to cover everything up.
Obviously, we’re not asking for perfection. If a couple of government employees get drunk one night and do something really stupid, they need to answer for it. If it means being treated like anyone else in the same situation, going to jail, getting fired, then so be it. So what if one of the agents involved was second-in-command on Obama’s detail. This shows that he’s irresponsible and doesn’t use good judgment. He shouldn’t be in the position he’s in.
It actually wouldn’t be that bad if the Secret Service didn’t try to cover everything up like this and just came out and took the appropriate actions. It might even encourage other government workers to be more responsible.