Dawn Bennett, host of radio show "Financial Myth Busting," recently interviewed Dan Bongino, a former Secret Service agent and author of "Life Inside the Bubble." In this interview, he discusses the recent actions of the Obama administration regarding the terrorist attacks that recently took place in Paris, and more.
Wasington, D.C. -- (ReleaseWire) -- 01/23/2015 --Dan Bongino was a decorated Secret Service agent, serving under three administrations. He began his career in the New York field office as he was assigned to federal crimes, and then in 2006 Daniel entered into duty on the elite Presidential Protection Division in the administration of President George W. Bush. Dan is also the author of Life Inside the Bubble, a New York Times bestseller which is an intimate look at life inside the presidential "bubble," a haze of staffers, consultants, cronies, acolytes, bureaucrats and lobbyists that creates the "alternate reality" in which monumental policy decisions are made.
BENNETT: This past Sunday, fifty-plus world leaders joined the French people in a unity rally decrying terrorism and the attacks that happened in Paris recently. These were the leaders of some of America's most important allies, and yet the President of the United States wasn't present. In your opinion, was Obama too busy watching football last Sunday, or is it actually something deeper than that? Obama continues to assert that terrorism is wholly unrelated to Islam, that groups violent extremists that self-identify as Muslin don't represent true Islam. He always seems to back off in times like this. What's your opinion on that?
BONGINO: Well, there's only a couple of explanations from this having spent significant amount of time behind the 18-acre White House complex. One of them is they were either caught by a surprise, which I, let me just say in advance, I highly doubt, or secondly, they weren't caught by surprise and just didn't want to go. The fact that he blames security—well, actually (White House Press Secretary) Josh Earnest did it for him and said, well, the Secret Service would have required public access to be limited—you know, it was all nonsense. That area was segregated off anyway due to the presence of Netanyahu and Abbas from Israel and the Palestinian Authority respectively. It was really disingenuous and it says to me they didn't want to go and they just didn't expect a backlash. The thing with the Obama administration, I find, which is the most disturbing on a number of levels is they make these really terrible decisions based on ideological leanings, then they turn around and they blame other people for it, innocent parties, and in this case, a party of people willing to give their lives for. I mean, it is really disturbing when you think about it.
BENNETT: So you do think it's actually deeper than just he wanted to watch football. You think it was actually related to his beliefs about Islam?
BONGINO: No, I just don't think he wanted to go. I think sometimes, having worked with this administration and their staffers, I really just think he didn't want to go. Like other people would say, how can he go out on the golf course, especially as this summer he did with the beheading speech and went out five minutes later, he was on the links. I think we give the President sometimes too much credit. He just doesn't want to go! Now, I don't know what's more disturbing to the American people. The fact that he is the president of the United States and doesn't want to act like it, or the fact that he's the president of the United States who has an ideological belief systems so contrary to what America stands for. They're both equally disturbing to me, so I don't really know, and I hate to render an uneducated opinion. I just don't think he wanted to go and that was it.
BENNETT: Doesn't he have handlers to keep him straight and make sure that he understands the ramifications of his decisions?
BONGINO: Well, yes and no, and that's the answer I had the most. I do radio myself, whenever someone says that, I want to flinch. But in this case, yes, he has handlers, and no, they don't keep him straight. They all have handlers. Bill Clinton had Dick Morris, Bush had Karl Rove. They always have people out there who try to keep them straight. But the problem with keeping the president straight is they've got to want to be straight.
BONGINO: He has a handler, Valerie Jarrett, who just shares the exact same ideological belief structure, and their attitude is, 'We won, kiss off, we're going to do what we want. And, you know what? We know the press is going to cover for us so who cares.' I mean, really, think about this. Your listeners need to really take this in. What has been the penalty for this president for anything he has done?
BONGINO: Nothing. Seriously, I'd love anyone to call in your show and tell me what the substantial material, actual penalty that the president of United States had for Benghazi, the IRS, Fast and Furious, the AP scandal, the GAO scandal, Bob Bergdahl. What's the penalty? Not one person can answer that question honestly because there isn't a penalty.
BENNETT: In a press conference on Friday with the British Prime Minister, David Cameron, President Obama used the latest attacks in Paris as justification for the government collecting American's phone data. As a security professional what do you think of that argument? Can we actually catch terrorists without this kind of massive blanket surveillance?
BONGINO: You know, I don't understand this, having been on the inside and done a couple of investigations, one that had a pretty heavy terrorism footprint, in Long Island, New York, I can't understand why there are people on the inside still arguing for this. I don't know if it's people who never actually conducted an investigation, they've only gathered the intelligence. I'm not sure, but it just doesn't work. What we were doing in our case is you get the lead, lead with the phone number, you subpoena the phone company the way that normal judicial process always works. You get the information, you follow the bread crumbs. Now, looking for a breadcrumb trail in a bread factory is far different than looking for a breadcrumb trail in your house. Why are they collecting a pool of data on Americans, which is, in my opinion, grotesquely unconstitutional and is not in any way assisting the investigative process. It's a power grab, not a grab for a better investigative path forward. I have no doubt about that having actually done the stuff.
BENNETT: Given the insight you have about the Secret Service relationship with the White House, has that relationship changed dramatically under the Obama administration?
BONGINO: Well, I think it has because the Obama administration runs roughshod over the entire federal government. And here are the examples. We had Benghazi where military people, intelligence operators and even contractors who were former military people, were on the ground. Some of them have been on news channels and have said, 'Listen, we were given this order to stand down.' Now, when the president comes out and throws these people under the bus through surrogates all the time because they want to protect themselves and they could not. Then you have the IRS scandal where the first series of blame was thrown of course at the Cincinnati field office agents and personnel who said, 'Wait, we had nothing to do with it.' I mean, how does this not damage -- and this is the irony of this whole thing and I guess it sums up the point here. For the president that genuflects before the altar of the big government and big tax and spend liberal ideology, no single president in recent American history has done more to damage that relationship between the government, its employees and the general public than President Obama.
BENNETT: Is it affecting the morale of the Secret Service? They are supposed to be protecting this man but he seems to be very callous and ungrateful for what they are doing, for the fact that they're committed to take a bullet for him.
BONGINO: Yes, morale is terrible there but it's for a number of reasons. They are still recovering from, of course, Colombia, then we had the fence jumper. I think there have been a number of just catastrophically bad incidents which have really taken a toll. I've never seen or heard morale is bad from the people I still talk to. But on the president's side, you know, I don't like to spin people's wheels just to get them riled up. The president's personally very nice to the agents so as his family. Now, the fact that publicly he is the exact opposite, it kind of balances -- I don't know how to describe it. It's weird, it's almost like a bittersweet relationship with them.
BENNETT: It sounds two-faced to me.
BONGINO: It is. But you know what? It's your job. And almost everybody had a boss who is two-faced at some point, right?
BONGINO: You just kind of rock and roll with it. You just do it and the agents don't really want to think about it. I think they just say, 'Hey, it is what it is and I'm just going to do my job and hopefully in two years we will have someone different.
BENNETT: This week, we had four top Secret Service officials told to resign and another two who quit. This comes after the Director left last October. What's happening with the shake-up at Secret Service?
BONGINO: Well, they needed a management shakeup and I knew all of the individuals there. They are all good people and it was three men and one woman and then one who retired...
BONGINO: ...but probably forced out as well. They needed a management shake-up like any business over time which has to answer the shareholders. The shareholders are looking for a shake-up as well if there's no productivity gains, if the products aren't getting better, the stock prices the moving up and the company isn't making any money. The Secret Service has been getting more and more money and they were getting less and less and less in terms of the results. It's not the men and women on the ground there. I know most of them and the men and women there work really hard. They are the best group of people I've ever worked with. The mishaps on the agents' side where I worked have been largely ethical and moral ones. The Colombia one, of course, would be agents. But the fence jumper had nothing to do with the agents. That was the Uniformed Division. There were no Secret Service agents involved in that, that was what is called UD. So they needed a shake-up and the men and women really needed to see some new leadership as a commitment to a better path forward, and I think this was a good first step.
BENNETT: So when you talk about Colombia, I just want to be clear. You're referring to the prostitution scandal in Colombia, right?
BONGINO: Yes. Yes, of course.
BENNETT: And then, of course, you had the fence jumper.
BONGINO: Right. The fence jumper which was... He made it to the White House.
BENNETT: And the man who shot at the White House but wasn't actively pursued, which I don't understand. Are these events embarrassing to the agency?
BONGINO: Of course. I mean, the Secret Service has always prided themselves on the first part of their name, the 'secret' portion. I mean, we are not an intelligence agency or a spy agency but Secret Service is really never a headline grabber, thank God. The best part of this job was people largely left us alone, and they left us alone because there were so few mishaps. This was a—not to throw the Uniformed Division under the bus, which I'm not doing, I think they are doing a great job as well—but the firearm incident at the House where the White House was shot at, of course they didn't find the rounds for few days, and the fence jumper—those were all in the domain of the Uniformed Division. There were no agents involved. But of course it was horribly embarrassing. I mean, there is no way for someone to say about the fence jumper, 'Well, we did our job, but this happened.' No, you didn't. You just screwed it up. On every front it was a disaster and that's it. Sometimes you just have to come out and say, 'Yes, we screwed it up and we will fix it.'
BENNETT: There was recently a report that the Secret Service has been having troubles since the move from the Department of Treasury to the Department of Homeland Security. Do you think that's part of the problem?
BONGINO: Yes, I've actually written pretty extensively on this and it's a little more complicated than it seems, but I will give you a readers' digest version here. What happened—I was with them when we were in Treasury and just to kind of sum it up, we were getting almost a billion dollars less when we were in Treasury. The budget's only about $1.8 billion now for the entire Secret Service and we were working off about $1 billion when I got there when it was in Treasury and the job we were doing was, I think, far better. And the reasons are complicated but it has a lot to do with incentives. We had learned to navigate our way through the government bureaucracy and the Department of Treasury and get things done at a cheaper cost. That wasn't the case when they just took us and moved us. The Secret Service move from Treasury to Homeland with no intermediary steps. It was an entirely new bureaucracy and it was a disaster. There were horse trades being made to try and get money, to try and keep assets, to keep responsibility, and it turned into a big mess. And in the end, what ended up happening is there were groups of managers at the top who were more concerned with post-employment prospects for a job with the Homeland Security officials they were working for than they were with fixing things in the Secret Service. And that was never an issue in the Treasury. What else are you going to do? I mean, align yourself with the Treasury official and become a financial derivatives analyst? You know, their fields were completely different. So it's a complicated explanation, but yes, the move was a disaster.
BENNETT: You have run for office before. Are you planning to run again?
BONGINO: I don't know. I'm finishing my second book now. I'm writing a lot. I really enjoy writing so I'm not really sure. I haven't written it off completely but, you know, I hate political answers, but in this case, it's pretty genuine. I just don't know right now. I'm probably aligned towards yes, but I'm just no sure.
BENNETT: Dan Bongino's book, Life Inside the Bubble, is available on Amazon.
All data sourced through Bloomberg
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About Dawn Bennett
Dawn Bennett is CEO and Founder of Bennett Group Financial Services. She hosts a national radio program called Financial Myth Busting http://www.financialmythbusting.com. She discusses educational topics and events in the financial news, along with her thoughts on the economy, financial markets, investments, and more with her live guests, who have included rock legend Ted Nugent, as well as Steve Forbes and Grover Norquist. Listeners can call 855-884-DAWN a as well as take podcasts on the road and forums for interaction.
She can be reached on Twitter @DawnBennettFMB or on Facebook Financial Myth Busting with Dawn Bennett or firstname.lastname@example.org