Reviews for Zero fail : the rise and fall of the Secret Service

Kirkus
Copyright © Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.

Pulitzer Prizewinning Washington Postreporter Leonnig paints a damning portrait of a federal agency in crisis.The Secret Service was born after the failure of a bodyguard to protect Abraham Lincoln from an assassins bullet. The agencys mission should be simple, but it has become mired in morale problems, malfeasance, and poor leadership. It has regularly been ranked as the most hated place to work in the federal government, a fiefdom of clashing bosses who demand personal loyalty, in exchange for which theyre willing to look the other way on certain matters. In a seamy example, while on duty in Cartagena, agents solicited prostitutes, some of whom were revealed to have cartel connections. The agency is necessary, as Leonnig easily demonstrates by citing statistics surrounding threats to Barack Obama, which earned him protection a full year ahead of his formal eligibility as a candidate. Yet, as the author writes, the Secret Service is shot through with unacknowledged racisme.g., a noose hanging in a room used by a Black instructor was attributed to one bad apple, not to the existence of a larger problem. Moreover, it is thoroughly politicized; MAGA hats were regularly seen on agents desks during the Trump years, and some cheered on the Jan. 6 insurrectionaries. Leonnig charges that, against regulations, one agent became involved with Tiffany Trump. Meanwhile, the president himself sometimes acted as if he were the head of personnel decisions at the Service, trying to have the leader of his wifes protective detail removed because he was bothered by the chunky heels she wore on the job. In a supreme irony, he complained of overweight agents as well. While the presidential detail has since been purged, and the agency is not paying exorbitant rent to enrich the occupant of the White House, the Service remains spread dangerously thin and, it seems, scarcely able to perform its mission.A solid case for restructuring a neglected and neglectful agency whose job is too important to admit laxity. Copyright Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.


Kirkus
Copyright © Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.

Pulitzer Prize–winning Washington Post reporter Leonnig paints a damning portrait of a federal agency in crisis. The Secret Service was born after the failure of a bodyguard to protect Abraham Lincoln from an assassin’s bullet. The agency’s mission should be simple, but it has become mired in morale problems, malfeasance, and poor leadership. It has regularly “been ranked as the most hated place to work in the federal government,” a fiefdom of clashing bosses who demand personal loyalty, in exchange for which they’re willing to look the other way on certain matters. In a seamy example, while on duty in Cartagena, agents solicited prostitutes, some of whom were revealed to have cartel connections. The agency is necessary, as Leonnig easily demonstrates by citing statistics surrounding threats to Barack Obama, which earned him protection a full year ahead of his formal eligibility as a candidate. Yet, as the author writes, the Secret Service is shot through with unacknowledged racism—e.g., a noose hanging in a room used by a Black instructor was attributed to “one bad apple, not to the existence of a larger problem.” Moreover, it is thoroughly politicized; MAGA hats were regularly seen on agents’ desks during the Trump years, and some cheered on the Jan. 6 insurrectionaries. Leonnig charges that, against regulations, one agent became involved with Tiffany Trump. Meanwhile, the president himself “sometimes acted as if he were the head of personnel decisions at the Service,” trying to have the leader of his wife’s protective detail removed because he “was bothered by the chunky heels she wore on the job.” In a supreme irony, he complained of overweight agents as well. While the presidential detail has since been purged, and the agency is not paying exorbitant rent to enrich the occupant of the White House, “the Service remains spread dangerously thin” and, it seems, scarcely able to perform its mission. A solid case for restructuring a neglected and neglectful agency whose job is too important to admit laxity. Copyright © Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.

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