Counter-Intelligence and Secret Service Officers as Inspectors General

I’m reading Paul Alexander’s book, Machiavelli’s Shadow, in anticipation of Sunday’s Book Salon on it.

One of the little-mentioned details he reports in his book is that Bush loaded up the Inspectors General positions with former Secret Service Agents.

"The telltale sign of what the crowd was going to be like was the way Bush was appointing politicals early on.[" said Gordon Hamel, a career bureaucrat. "]He was putting tons of unqualified politicals into positions.  One of the things I noticed the most was the inspectors genera. He was filling all of the IG positions with former Secret Service agents. It had nothing to do with their skills. A Secret Service agent does two things: Protect the president and chase counterfeiters. Unless you were a manager, you were one of the geeks standing at the door talking into your sleeve. So how are you qualified to go from that into an executive position that requires manager and policy-making skills? But these Secret Service agents were the ones who had guarded Daddy Bush and Bush and Rove knew it. The agents were loyal Bushies."

Alexander goes on to suggest that Bush did this to limit the reporting of waste, fraud, and abuse from within his how government. And Alexander elaborates on Hamel’s story of being intimidated by one of these inspectors general.

Which is all I could think of when I read that Bush’s nominee to replace Cookie Krongard as the State Department’s IG is a counter-intelligence officer.

President Bush has nominated Thomas Betro, director of the Naval Criminal Investigative Service, to be State Department inspector general, a position roiled by controversy and turnover over the last year.

If confirmed, Betro would fill the slot of Howard Krongard, who resigned under fire in December, and take over for acting State IG Harold Geisel.

Now, don’t get me wrong. Unlike those secret service agents installed to be thugs, it appears that Betro has executive experience in the kind of task that IG’s perform. He seems qualified for the position.

Still, at a time when the State Department’s primary IG complaint is reeling in Blackwater, and a soon-to-be secondary complaint may be the assistance, on the part of the Ambassador to Albania, of weapons fraud, not to mention the always-dominant complaints about the Iraqi Embassy and its related intelligence fun, I find it notable that Bush chose a counter-intelligence officer to take over as State’s IG.

  1. Citizen92 says:

    …these Secret Service agents were the ones who had guarded Daddy Bush…

    Not far off the mark.

    George W inherited a Secret Service that felt battered and bruised under Clinton. Not BY Clinton, they respected him well enough. But BECAUSE of Clinton. Scores of Clinton-era agents were hauled before Dan Burton’s political retribution/witch hunt committee to detail the most personal comings and goings of the President – and the intracies of their jobs. Giving away details of the intimite details of their job compromised the protection mission.

    So by the time Bush Jr came around, the USSS was wary… But it was also a changeover time. The guys that had protected his Dad had the unique personal bonds that develop with protectees, and they hadn’t been forced to reveal any of that like Clinton’s agents had.

    So the Bushies manipulated those personal relationships.

    And it paid off. Remember the various USSS impersonator scandals? The various “overzealous volunteers”? The “Denver Three”? The USSS protected each and every one of those White House staffers (staffers who were illegally bullying taxpayer “dissenters” at taxpayer events) by refusing to disclose the details of the investigations.

    And they swept them under the rug.

  2. earlofhuntingdon says:

    The idea of appointing former SS agents – often ex-military and state police types – as IG’s, rather than former prosecutors or top-notch auditors or engineers, is certainly counter-intuitive. The IG, like police department internal affairs officers everywhere, inherently stand in opposition to their agencies. They’re around because large organizations inevitably screw up. Self-serving predators get hired and sometimes promoted to great heights. And sometimes top performers fall from grace, suffering from age, exhaustion, debt, and sexual or marital troubles. Every highway department needs somebody to patrol for the road kill and clean it up, and suggest where and what kind of new fences might be needed.

    To be competent, an IG has to be an independent, not dependent, personality, someone who won’t take “No” or glib answers for the final answer, and who isn’t afraid to buck authority or the system. Bush, who has a morbid fear of falling short, has consistently chosen a very different cast of characters for his IG’s.

    Three things exacerbate these already tough jobs. The personality types Bush has chosen to fill them with. Cheney’s insistence on breaking the rules and chain of command, and substituting his own rules (which only the faithful are clued into) to make sure that what he, as Whisperer-in-Chief, wants done gets done. And the fact that Bush has ramped up defense and overall government spending to the highest in our history. It’s almost as if George and Dick want the IG’s to fail.

    Scott Horton has a Q&A with Paul Alexander on this today, too.…..c-90003167

  3. earlofhuntingdon says:

    The most obvious reason not to hire Secret Service personnel as Inspectors General is that the SS’s principal function, its reason for being, is to protect the President – at all costs, including loss of life and limb.

    Sometimes an Inspector General has to say that her boss, her organization, her President, is wrong, that he or she broke the law or other important rules, and that it should stop.

    • klynn says:

      SS protect the President. IG’s make sure our nations work is done within the Rule of Law.

      A bit of a conflict of interest when your world view is to protect at all costs yet your responsibility is to hold accountable to the law at all costs.

  4. FormerFed says:

    I was fairly close to one Service Service agent. Hell of a nice guy and knew his job very well. But I doubt he would say he was qualified to be an Agency IG – even for the FBI or Treasury. Just one more example of how the Bushies have corrupted the Career Civil Service.

  5. MarkH says:

    So, the Republicans wanted to know all the Secret Service practices for protecting the president, eh? Why?

  6. anwaya says:

    How many of these former secret agents would be the Inspectors General who review the illegal wiretapping scheme? An email from my representative, Adam Schiff, suggests all of them:

    The bill requires a full review by the Inspectors General of our national security agencies and of the President’s warrantless wiretapping program to determine what took place in the past and to ensure accountability going forward.

    Doesn’t this mean that foxes will be conducting the review of the raid on the chicken-coop?

  7. Hugh says:

    I have a lot of Inspector General entries to my scandal list. I also have this more general entry.

    326. On February 28, 2008, the Project on Government Oversight (POGO) issued a report on the Inspector Generals. It found that 60% of IGs appointed under Bush had prior political experience but only 20% had previous experience in auditing. This is the reverse of the situation under Clinton where 60% of IGs had experience in auditing and less than 25% had previous political experience. Civilian IGs come in two flavors, those appointed by the President and approved by Congress and those appointed by agency heads. Both types are overseen by the Deputy Director of the President’s Office of Management and Budget (OMB) currently Clay Johnson III. Johnson’s philosophy is that “Surprises are to be avoided” and that IGs are expected to work with their agencies. The problem is, of course, that IGs are supposed to be independent monitors of them. Aside from Johnson’s input into the situation, the goal of IG independence seldom happens for various reasons. First, those IGs who are appointed by agency heads aren’t independent by definition. Second, even IGs who are Presidentially appointed may have their independence curbed by budget constraints as has happened at the State Department over and above the antics of Cookie Krongard (see item 251) or by a lack of its own attorney as is the case with the Pentagon’s IG which uses a deputy to the DOD’s in house General Counsel. Third, some IGs like NASA’s Robert Cobb (see item 149) identify so strongly with their agencies that they have abdicated any real oversight or independence. The result is that the IG system does not work, but then this Administration was never into oversight into what it was doing anyway.

  8. Citizen92 says:

    I completely forgot about a wonderful case study in this phenomenon.

    Jim Knodell.

    About 8 years ago, Knodell was a fairly senior Secret Service Agent. He was on the Presidential Protective Detail (Clinton) but had a desk job – responsible for liaising with White House staff and making travel arrangements for other agents. A pretty dull job.

    Anyway, the Bush Administration somehow hired him away from the Secret Service and into the White House Office of Admninstration as the Director of White House Security (WHS).

    WHS is responsible for vetting all political appointees security risks, assigning security clearances, investigating unauthorized leaks of classified information and other sensitive tasks. Was Knodell qualified? Who knows.


    This was proven at a hearing attended by Henry Waxman, where Knodell revealed that the White House NEVER investigated the Plame leak. His office would have been responsible for the investigation.

    And here’s a snippet of a Waxman letter to then White House Chief of Staff Andrew Card:

    … On March 16, 2007, the Oversight Committee held a hearing to examine the disclosure by White House officials of the covert status of CIA officer Valerie Plame Wilson. At this hearing, the current Chief Security Officer at the White House, James Knodell, testified that the White House Security Office (1) did not conduct any internal investigation to identify the source of the leak (2) did not initiate corrective actions to prevent further security breaches, and (3) did not consider administrative sanctions or reprimands for the officials involved.

    … Following the hearing, my staff heard from multiple current and former security officials who work or worked at the White House Security Office. These security officials described a systemic breakdown in security procedures at the White House. The statements of these officials, if true, indicate that the security lapses that characterized the White House response to the leak of Ms. Wilson’s identity were not an isolated occurrence, but part of a pattern of disregard for the basic requirements for protecting our national security secrets.

  9. R.H. Green says:

    Insofar as the FISA remodelling is scheduled for a Senate vote on Tuesday, and it has a provision for an IG to “protect against” wiretapping misconduct, perhaps this article or the comment by Citizen92 would be a good point of emphasis for those attempting to influence that voting.

  10. Leen says:

    I was alarmed when (R)Senator Patrick Roberts diverted and delayed Phase II of the Senate Select Committee’s investigation into false pre war intelligence, specifically the investigation of the Office of Special Plans.

    When Roberts encouraged the Inspector General of the Pentagon (the Pentagon investigating themselves) to investigate this office instead of completing Phase II it was not difficult to figure that this was one more abusive strategy of his to delay and divert the much needed investigation. This was just before the 2004 election. His agenda was obviously to slow down or put a stop the Phase II of the SSCI.

    Still wondering if we will witness congress hold anyone (Feith, Ledeen, Hadley etc etc) ACCOUNTABLE for creating, cherry picking and disseminating the false pre war intelligence? Are they waiting for a “blue dress”?