Thursday, October 02, 2014

Shhh! I'm with the Secret Service

The Secret Service, after 150 years of exemplary work, is much in the news of late for several poor performances. Reading about the gaffes and the resulting resignation of the service's director, reminded me of an encounter with one of the agents.

The Director of the Intermountain Research Station, where I was working for the U.S. Forest Service, decided to check out the latest management fad being promoted throughout the federal establishment. He sent me, our biometrician, and an administrative services specialist to Washington, DC for a one-week training session with orders to report back with recommendations.

It turned out to be a pretty high-level gathering. Among our group of about 40 trainees was the Postmaster General and a two-star Marine Corps general. We met daily just down the street from the Russian Embassy.

Forest Service lodging reimbursements didn't cover the cost of  rooms in fancy places, so our trio stayed in a modest hotel and we had to walk a fair distance every morning to the meeting place. We made the trek early, because free coffee and donuts were available for about a half-hour before the training sessions started.

Keach would have been believable as a Secret Service agent.
One fellow trainee was present every day when we arrived. Often he was the only one there, so we chatted with him and became acquainted. The man bore a startling resemblance to actor Stacey Keach. We learned that he had been a lieutenant commander in the U.S. Navy before his present employment. There was no doubt about his current work. Where our workshop name tags said U.S.Forest Service, his said Secret Service!

Obviously, our new friend was there guarding somebody, but in numerous conversations he never told us who it was. The cold war hadn't thawed at that time, and we mentioned our proximity to the Russians and wondered if he wasn't concerned about identifying himself so openly.

The agent said, "Oh, they know who all of us are. And we know who all the KGB guys are."

 Apparently, some things aren't so secret in secret service work. 


Anonymous said...

Well Dick, not to play one upmansip with you, but in the 1980s, the wife if the head of the Secret Service once worked for me. She was a swell person, and I am sure her husband wa too. I am sure most of these people are fine officers, but lacking a leader, the outfit has fallen apart, just like most agencies across town. The appointment of political hacks by a novice is the issue. Years ago, upper levels came up through the ranks, but in an era of Affirmative Action, women and minorities are pushed to the level of their incompetence. One can only hope that merit will someday be the basis of promotion again.

PS I don't know what news makes it out your way, but I wonder if you read about or heard about the gunman who shot up the front of the White House. This in addition to the recent 'break-in" and elevator episode in Atlanta?

Dick Klade said...

Dianne: Attempts to give preference to women and minorities in employment and advancement in the federal government started 25 or 30 years ago. I know of several positive situations in which people who earlier had little chance to move up did very well and earned every advance they got. I also know of a few cases in which unqualified people moved up at the expense of others. I don't understand your reference to appointments by "novices." Surely, all those making appointments for several decades were not novices.

Kay said...

Actually your meeting sounded very interesting and rather fun. I've never met a secret agent before.

Tom Sightings said...

Well, t takes one to know one ...

Dick Klade said...

Kay: It was interesting. He told us how agents were assigned and related several personal stories about being assigned to guard the President of the U.S.

I met one other Secret Service agent. He was stationed in a corridor of a Salt Lake City hotel where we were having a Forest Service meeting. I went out for a smoke break and he asked me what I was doing there. He was there because first lady Bush (the older one) was coming to address a meeting in another conference room. He told me to stick around if I wanted to see her. I did, and saw Mrs. Bush come down the hall with an entourage and go into her presentation room.

Anonymous said...

Dick, there were some positives and some negatives too. I was shocked when I moved from the private sector to the federal government following the break up of the Bell System.

Anonymous said...

During the 'Cold War' I worked in a secret RAF air defence station and had to sign the British 'Official Secrets Act'. Everyone who lived in the area knew where it was, so I'm pretty sure the Russians did.