It is a great irony of Washington: the federal agency closest in proximity to the most powerful political officials in the land is bound by an institutional culture that avoids politics -- and this agency generally draws the short end of the stick as a result. The moment that the Salahi security breach became politicized is the moment that the Secret Service lost control of its public image in ways that are detrimental to the agency and to its morale. And yet -- it had no choice, really. It cannot pick a fight with Congress. It cannot pick a fight with protectees. It cannot even pick a fight with Ronald Kessler, whose recent book about the Service is widely reviled inside the agency.
To choose but one example: the Washington Post obtains an internal report on 91 reported security breaches over a period of 23 years. 91 breaches! That sounds horrible. But to the Service, a breach -- really, a word that contains multitudes -- is many things. When a yahoo jumps over the White House fence and is bitten by a dog and placed in a sniper's crosshairs seconds later, that's a breach over which the Service has no initial control. When a grenade shell is found within the secure perimeter at a presidential event overseas, that's also a breach -- arguably an extremely bad breach -- though -- here again, there is a back-story to the incident that the Service, because it will not discuss methods and won't discuss the conversations its agents have with protectees, cannot tell. (The document in question was written well before the Georgia trip.) Perspective suggests that the Service has a good record. The existence of the 91-breach document is a testament to how seriously the Service takes its protective mission, not the other way around.