The Widdershins

Remain Calm, Etc: Where Does the Buck Stop, Exactly?

Posted on: October 2, 2014

Good Thursday, Widdershins.  It has been an interesting week – again.  I have spent much of the past few days watching the Congressional hearings regarding the latest Secret Service snafus and the public excoriation of now ex-Director Julia Pierson.

Ms. Pierson, you may recall, was promoted in order to stifle the “frat boyz” of the Secret Service after the hotel/prostitutes scandal in Cartagena.  To her everlasting credit, we have not heard so much as a whisper of sexual misconduct in the workplace since she assumed the directorship.  Unfortunately, there have been a number of bungles that have occurred during her watch.

I think that we can all agree that Obama is likely to take all of the records for threats against his life,  We can belabor the “hows” and the “whys” and a “wherefore” or two, but I suspect that we should just pass on that one.  One would therefore assume that the Secret Service would be on heightened alert at all times.  Maybe they have been, but it sure doesn’t look like it from here.  There was the famous shooting episode that was “thoroughly investigated”, except for the fact that it was the maid who found the evidence while cleaning the family quarters.  Then there was the armed contractor in the elevator with the Prez at the CDC who turned out to be a felon.

Now, there are all kinds of felonies.  I know one man who is a great guy and also a convicted felon.  His crime?  He stopped payment on a check to a mechanic who had not really fixed his car and would not make it good.  Nonetheless, in Florida this is a third degree felony,  Hopefully, the armed individual at CDC was of that particular ilk, but apparently the Secret Service was blissfully ignorant of the entire situation.  I always thought that anyone who was to interact with the US President was to be vetted prior to the occasion, but this was apparently not the case.

The final blow came with the man who made it over the gate, across the lawn, through the open front door through the White House to the East Room, which is almost to the base of the staircase to the family quarters prior to being tackled by an off-duty Secret Service agent.  There are so many lapses here that I’m not sure where to even start.  He whizzed by several sets of agents and an undeployed canine before entering the unlocked White House and cruising through a number of equally unlocked rooms.  This particular crasher got through an amazing number of rooms, and our Friends at Fox began reporting immediately:

The revelation that the intruder made it much farther than originally known came on the eve of a scheduled House Oversight and Government Reform Committee hearing that will address the breach, as well as lawmakers’ “concerns” about the Secret Service’s security protocols.

A series of what one source called “catastrophic” security failures apparently allowed the intruder to get deep into the White House.

The Secret Service did not follow basic protocols during the incident to protect the White House, the president and the first family and the agency still does not know why, a source intimately familiar with details of the investigation told Fox News.

And so begins the Congressional input.  Now, I grant you that Ms. Pierson appeared overwhelmed and underprepared for the Congressional onslaught.  Normally even-keeled Reps like Elijah Cummings were upset about what they were hearing.  Of course, Darrell Issa and Jason Chafitz are all over this.  Chafitz wants to authorize deadly force and Issa plans to form a committee to further investigate, etc. etc, etc.  There really should be record low unemployment in the District courtesy of all of Issa’s committees.  However, two questions leap immediately to mind:

(1) What will Congress do?  Who knows, and really who cares?  The USSS works for the Department of Homeland Security, which is a function of the Executive Branch.  Congress has the Capital Police Force, the Justice Department has the US Marshals and the FBI.  Government is divided, and I’m pretty certain that Congress would be righteously indignant should the marshals invade the Senate building.  I guess they can advise through the Homeland Security Committees, but I’m not certain that their recommendations come with a full set of teeth and I’m even less certain about how Congress fits in with the separation of powers concept.

(2) Is it even possible that this is revenge of the Frat Boyz?  Ms. Pierson is the first woman to ever lead the USSS, and she was appointed to keep the boyz in line.  Hmmmm……..  Anyone who has ever worked in a bureaucracy is keenly aware that  it is possible to make their boss look like a star or a failure with a wee bit of coordinated effort.  Now, I’m not saying that this is what happened, but it sure would be a dandy way to ascertain that it’s a long, long time before another woman sits in that chair again.

This is an open thread.


19 Responses to "Remain Calm, Etc: Where Does the Buck Stop, Exactly?"

If, for no other reason, removing Darrell Issa as chairman of anything would be a good reason to return the House to Dem. control.

chat, you said: The USSS works for the Department of Homeland Security, which is a function of the Executive Branch.

However, looking it up in wiki, the Oversight and Govt. Reform committee is a little special and I guess can look into pretty much anything “govt” related.

The Committee on Oversight and Government Reform is a United States House of Representatives committee that has existed in varying forms since 1816.

The Committee on Oversight and Government Reform is the main investigative committee in the U.S. House of Representatives.

The Committee’s government-wide oversight jurisdiction and expanded legislative authority make it one of the most influential and powerful committees in the House. The Committee serves as Congress’ chief investigative and oversight committee, and is granted broad jurisdiction. The chairman of the committee is the only committee chairman in the House with the authority to issue subpoenas without a committee vote

Yes, they can, but can they actually enforce anything on another branch of government without violating the separation of powers ? That is the burning question.

Well…they are given that authority. Whether the Executive decides to honor it or not is a different story. I think Issa held Holder in contempt of Congress or something at one point. I think Holder went “meh”. Theoretically, the House controls the purse strings, although Gawd knows, funding has been by C.R.s for who knows how long.

So they are given unenforceable authority to override the separation of powers act? I recall any number of demands being sent to Dubya, who claimed Executive privilege and the demands went away.

(sigh) I’m not gonna argue it. The only separation of powers act I could find is something by Rand Paul in 2013. I couldn’t find any other specific separation of powers act.

I *did* see this in wiki…here:


Writes and enacts laws
Enacts taxes, authorizes borrowing, and sets the budget
Has sole power to declare war
May start investigations, especially against the executive branch

@6: I’m not questioning their power to investigate, that is clear, nor am I trying to be argumentative. My question – and it is a question – is if Congress has the power to compel the executive branch, other than impeachment I can’t find anything that grants them that power.

@7: Sadly, they are my mortgage holder. Happily, I don;t do online banking and own an old flip phone, so I likely will not be affected,

@8: Well they do have the power to investigate as you and I said. Can they do anything with it? I dunno…call the Executive branch bad names? 😯

Boring football game so far. (yawn)

I may switch over to AZ and the Ducks on ESPN.

Interesting game. The #2 team down to an unranked rival.

Tied now, but the Ducks got two nasty penalty calls.

Yeah, but ranked 2 in Pac 12 South.

Now that was an upset!

I saw something about Pierson’s interrogation, and feel bad for her, but geez, those security breaches were astonishing. Did she step down or resign?

I believe she did resign, but with 30 yrs of service I hope there’s a way she can reitire…in other words resign *that* particular job and then take her earned retirement.

Well, thats gotta be one of the worlds most stressful jobs.

My sister says that the powers that be only allow a woman to lead when the institution/agency/corporation is already at death’s door.
Then, they can say, “See women are just not up to the challenge.”

@18: Exactly.

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