A Secret Service car in downtown D.C.
Credit: Tony Hisgett / Flickr, licensed under CC BY 2.0

Carol Leonnig discusses Zero Fail

The core of the Secret Service’s mission is straightforward: Protect the president and other prominent officials so they can go about the business of running our country. However, since its founding, the agency has repeatedly found itself falling short or embroiled in controversy. (Key examples: the pepper spraying of Black Lives Matter protesters, the Cartagena prostitution scandal, and the time agents didn’t have the right key to let Dick Cheney into the White House bunker on 9/11. Oh, and JFK.) Washington Post contributor Carol Leonnig, an investigative reporter with three Pulitzers under her belt, catalogues these breakdowns in Zero Fail, her new book on the agency. At an upcoming online talk hosted by Politics and Prose, Leonnig will discuss what she learned from hundreds of interviews with former agents, White House aides, and politicians. Zero Fail exposes problems of underfunding, outdated tech, and institutional resentment, all coming at a time when the agency is in a state of flux. The Secret Service was moved under the umbrella of the Department of Homeland Security under George W. Bush. Members of Congress recently expressed a desire to move it back to the Department of the Treasury, its home for the first 140 years of its existence, which could open the door to reform. Leonnig is not shy about putting the Secret Service and its shortcomings under a microscope. Still, she emphasizes that the agency’s mission is essential. A Secret Service screw up can change the very fabric of life in America—we know this from experience. The talk begins at 6 p.m. on May 18. Registration is available at eventbrite.com. Free.