The Fight: A Secret Service Agent's Inside Account of Security Failings and the Political Machine

The Fight: A Secret Service Agent's Inside Account of Security Failings and the Political Machine

by Dan Bongino


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The Fight: A Secret Service Agent's Inside Account of Security Failings and the Political Machine by Dan Bongino

The New York Times bestseller!

"The Fight shines a much needed light on the troubling games DC politicians and insiders play with the American people." -Sean Hannity

"The Fight is a lesson plan for fighting back against the Washington DC political machine." - Mark Levin

In The Fight, Dan Bongino picks up the story where his New York Times bestselling book Life Inside the Bubble ends, tackling current political and security issues and offering new solutions. From Hillary's emails to the security failings at the White House (including the drone crash and the fence jumper); from Charlie Hebdo to Bowe Bergdahl—the author examines how our current administration has allowed our security efforts to lapse both at home and abroad. He also offers solutions to the growing terrorist threat and how we can protect American citizens while also deconstructing what's wrong with our political process and what his experience running for office has taught him.

As a former member of the elite Presidential Protection Division who served three Presidents, Bongino is uniquely qualified to provide a view from behind the curtain to warn readers about the political system that is failing them, and the security future that won't protect them. The majority of Americans only come into contact with security when they fly or enter their workplace. They are rarely able to become acquainted with the politicians they know from robo-calls and TV ads. Bongino has experienced the inner-workings of the national security apparatus and the failed political theater that we all feel but rarely understand. Using a mix of current events, an insider's analysis, and tales from his time protecting the president, he shows where clear and foreseeable leadership failures from our current administration led to grave consequences. From a broken political process to a president who consistently misreads the American people, he shows us where America has gone wrong and how we can fight back.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781250116901
Publisher: St. Martin's Press
Publication date: 01/10/2017
Pages: 240
Sales rank: 100,190
Product dimensions: 5.00(w) x 7.90(h) x 0.80(d)

About the Author

DAN BONGINO served in the Secret Service during the administrations of Bill Clinton, George W. Bush, and Barack Obama. In 2011, he ran for the Senate and finished second. He ran for Congress in 2014 and lost by one point. He hosts a radio show on WMAL, and guest hosts on the Sean Hannity and the Mark Levin radio shows. He provides commentary for CNN, FOX, MSNBC, NBC, and others. His first book, Life Inside the Bubble, was aNew York Times bestseller. He lives in Florida.

Read an Excerpt

The Fight

A Secret Service Agent's Inside Account of Security Failings and the Political Machine

By Dan Bongino

St. Martin's Press

Copyright © 2015 Dan Bongino
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-1-250-08299-2


The White House Fence Jumper

It was a Friday night and I just sat down at my kitchen table after a long day of campaigning. After knocking on approximately a hundred doors, I took my daughter to her swimming class, returned home with her, and, as I typically did when I had a free moment, I glanced down at my Twitter account to see what was going on in the world. I immediately noticed a strange tweet directed to me from a producer at CNN, asking me about a fence-jumping incident at the White House. I hadn't heard anything about the incident because I was driving with my daughter just minutes prior, but I didn't think there was much of a story there because no one else was e-mailing or calling me from the media about it. Whenever incidents had happened relating to the Secret Service, my cell phone and e-mail account would erupt with media requests and, absent the tweet, I hadn't heard from anyone and figured it was a minor story on a slow news night. After the incident with the Secret Service in Cartagena, Colombia, I was accustomed to media "pile-ons," but the media firestorm White House fence jumper Omar Gonzalez initiated was unlike anything I had lived through in the past as this story grew geometrically and eventually led to the downfall of most of the Secret Service's upper-level management. The lesson we can all take away from this incident is that, sometimes, even the Secret Service takes security for granted and in this new era of global terrorism, threat assessment and management, and the prevalence of soft targets, security is probably an afterthought at your workplace as well.

I, along with many of my former Secret Service colleagues, saw the security failures of September 19, 2014 (the date of the fence-jumping incident), coming. We all wished away the threat and hoped that the clearly inadequate security fence surrounding the White House would one day be replaced with a barrier adequate enough to separate the President of the United States from the legions of serious threats to his life roaming around the exterior of the White House grounds. There are a number of visually impressive centers of power in Washington, DC, ranging from the Capitol building to the Supreme Court, but there are few magnets for the attention of psychopathological assassins like the White House. When I served as an agent in the New York Field Office's protective intelligence section, the division that investigates presidential threat cases that comes to our attention, I was consistently amazed at the creativity displayed in the minds of potential assassins with regard to the reasons they were targeting the President or the White House. While reading some of their letters or during our interviews with these subjects, they would state reasons ranging from, "they're hiding aliens in the White House" to "the President stole my girlfriend." Many of these clearly disturbed men and women had never had contact with the mental health system and I viewed my role in the protective intelligence section as more of a social worker one than a law enforcement one. It is shocking how so many of these deeply disturbed people live alternate lives of sincere paranoia and psychological distress, yet function almost normally in other portions of their lives and, therefore, they avoid detection while walking among us.

One particular case stands out to me as an example of this phenomenon; I will call him Joe to preserve his anonymity. Joe came to my attention through a series of threatening letters he authored, which were written to people under the protection of the Secret Service and they all had the warning signs of a potentially dangerous threat case. One of those warning signs, that may seem counterintuitive to the casual observer, is target shifting. When a psychologically disturbed individual threatens or shows an unusual interest in a number of different targets (i.e., politicians, celebrities, sports figures) and isn't focused on one specific person, that is a historical indicator of an elevated threat based on the thousands of interviews the Secret Service has conducted in their extensive research on threat assessment. Films, such as In the Line of Fire starring Clint Eastwood, which tells the story of a singular obsession with the assassination of the President by an assassin played by John Malkovich, give the impression that the most dangerous potential assassins are those that are laser focused on one target. But the Secret Service's internal research and experience points to the opposite conclusion. Those who promiscuously target numerous people with their pathological thoughts and desires are far more dangerous. A potent example is the attempted assassination of President Ronald Reagan by John Hinckley. Hinckley was motivated not by an obsession with Reagan (Hinckley actually targeted President Jimmy Carter before settling on Reagan), but by a desire to impress actress Jodie Foster who he had grown pathologically attached to.

When I first read "Joe's" letters, his target shifting, and the detail by which he laid out exactly what he wanted to do to the various people he was obsessed with, I knew we had a problem. Threats to the President, no matter how seemingly innocuous or grave, are all treated with the same urgency within the Secret Service, but I knew this one was different and that time was not on our side. I did some investigative homework on Joe and through a computer search I found out where he worked. With the permission of the Secret Service office supervisor, who agreed with my evaluation of the threat level of the situation, I immediately grabbed a colleague of mine named "Brad" and sped over to the small grocery store where Joe worked. When we entered the store, one of those old neighborhood grocery stores that the bigger chains have since driven out of business, one of the employees must have sensed immediately who we were looking for. I don't know if he had recently spoken with Joe and sensed that something had gone wrong with him, or if Joe had threatened him, but the employee knew why we were there and pointed toward the deli counter in the back of the store. Oddly enough, neither Brad nor I had displayed our issued Secret Service credentials and I jokingly remarked that the store employee must have thought we were there for a sandwich. The store was small enough that Brad and I could see portions of the deli counter in the rear of the store in between the aisles that broke up the full visual picture. Although we didn't have a photo of Joe, the man we saw pacing back and forth, in and out of view, as he disappeared between the visual obstructions of the grocery shelves in the aisles, was clearly our guy. I looked at Brad and nothing needed to be said as we both knew what the other was thinking as we watched Joe's frantic pacing: "This could get bad." We didn't want to unnecessarily escalate the situation by running toward Joe so we briskly walked the short distance from the front to the rear of the store and the seconds felt like minutes as Joe would disappear and reappear from view, each second appearing more agitated based on his furtive movements. Brad made it to the rear of the store first and when Joe saw Brad he immediately ran to the far corner behind the thick, see-through deli glass case. I could see a distorted image through the glass deli case and I noticed that Joe had grabbed something and was now loudly screaming at us. He was frantic and was demanding to know why we were there, but his body was angled in such a way that it blocked my view of what he was holding. It was then that I heard Brad yell, "Knife!" The Secret Service and the NYPD had trained me in their respective academies that the minimum safe distance from a knife-wielding adversary was twenty-one feet, even with your firearm out and fixed on the adversary (based on the adversary's ability to cover that twenty-one-foot distance in a brief amount of time and inflict fatal stab wounds before a law enforcement officer can properly react). I knew we were in grave danger as Brad was approximately six feet away and was far enough behind the counter that if Joe were to lunge at him he would have difficulty escaping. I drew my firearm desperately trying to train my weapon's sights on Joe but his rapid hand and head movements, as he gestured toward both Brad and then me, with the large butcher knife, prevented me from getting a clear picture through the front sight of my black Secret Service issued P229 Sig Sauer handgun. Making matters far worse, the deli case blocked most of Joe's vital organs making a shot, which would stop Joe, if necessary, nearly impossible (contrary to what some members of the general public believe, police officers and federal agents are trained to shoot only to stop assailants, they are not trained to fire their weapons to kill assailants). Brad, sensing the threat, drew his weapon out and we both screamed at the top of our lungs, "Drop the knife, drop the knife!" When you are in that moment, as many law enforcement officers who have been there can attest to, the only thing you see is that knife and it appears twice as large when it is being directed at you. Although only minutes had passed since we encountered Joe, my brain deceived me into believing that I had spent hours staring at that butcher knife as Joe menacingly waved it through space. A deadly weapon, with your eyes trained on it, is almost hypnotic in its ability to warp time, the possibility of an ugly death will do that to the mind. As employees of the grocery store began to swarm to the rear of the store, and watch in astonishment at what was occurring, Joe began to slow down his frantic hand and head movements. It was only when a store employee screamed that Joe reluctantly dropped the knife on the counter. Strangely, the presence of the store employees seemed to break Joe's out-of-control state of rage and return him to reality from the conspiratorial world his psychologically damaged other half resided in. Brad and I had awoken the "Mr. Hyde" portion of Joe's Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde personality by our mere presence in the store, which seemed to confirm to him all of the bizarre conspiracy theories Joe had written about in the letters he authored, which brought him to the Secret Service's attention.

That incident was the closest I came to a deadly use-of-force scenario as a law enforcement officer and, more than a decade later, I still recall each minor detail. I remember thinking to myself with regard to the grocery store employees who saw the incident, "These are just kids, are they going to have to witness me shooting this man?" These types of incidents are all too frequent occurrences within the Secret Service as they fulfill their mission investigating the many threats to the President of the United States and I wonder if the Secret Service sniper assigned to the White House roof on the day fence jumper Omar Gonzalez scaled the White House fence was thinking the same thing about the kids outside of the White House fence line.

Unfortunately many of the psychologically disturbed men and women that the Secret Service come into contact with in their threat investigations are first encountered, not behind the deli counter of a local supermarket, but on the White House side of the seven-and-a-half-foot tall, black, iron fence separating the secure White House grounds from the unsecure public space. The White House fence, as it appeared on that fateful night that Omar Gonzalez scaled it and made it inside of the East Room of the White House State Floor, has not been significantly altered since 1965. The September 11, 2001, terror attacks, the Oklahoma City bombing, the World Trade Center bombing, and a number of other terror attacks of varying degrees of sophistication all tragically came and went without any significant security upgrades to the fence that separates the President from the many who wish to do him and his family harm. The story of the fence, Gonzalez's scaling of it, and the failure to upgrade it, is a microcosm of the larger problems infecting the Secret Service, our government, and the failure of many of today's businessmen and women to properly account for security in an increasingly dangerous world.

If you were to take a portion of the White House fence, as it existed during the Omar Gonzalez incident, paint it a different color to disguise where it came from, take a picture of it, and show it to a Secret Service agent and ask him if he would secure a low-threat facility with it, he would laugh in your face. The fence we used to secure the Olympic Village at the Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City, Utah, in 2002 (a facility with a threat profile far less significant than that of the White House) when the Secret Service designed the security plan, was as technologically advanced as any in the world. Using both technologically advanced security measures such as vibration detectors, and simple ones such as a fence high enough to make scaling it, without being detected, nearly impossible; it was well-suited to keeping those who may have wished the Olympic athletes harm, out. The Salt Lake City Olympic Committee had little experience with security, but neither they, nor the Secret Service, were going to allow a repeat of the 1972 Munich Olympics terror attacks where, at 4:00 a.m., eight heavily armed terrorists from the terrorist group Black September scaled a lightly guarded fence separating the Olympic Village from the general public and brutally murdered members of the Israeli Olympic team. There's an old adage that states, "Good fences make good neighbors." If that's true then, at a minimum, good fences make for good security and while designing the Olympic Village security plan, the fence was priority number one.

If the fence was a priority for the Olympic athlete's "home" during the Secret Service's security planning session for the 2002 Olympics, then how did nearly everyone seem to miss the grotesquely inadequate fence "securing" the home of the President of the United States? The answer is: they didn't. The fence fell victim to the very same bureaucratic and political mess that many other intractable policy problems have fallen victim to with the Washington, DC, power brokers; leadership obsessed with the accumulation of power and influence and less concerned with basic problem-solving. Problem-solving within the bureaucratic class in Washington, DC, requires the recognition of a "problem" first and that mandates that a bureaucrat call attention to some policy or procedure that someone else is invested in. This is a risk and risk-takers are shunned within the Washington, DC, bureaucratic class. This is not a problem unique to government, but it is a problem ubiquitous within the public sector. My experience within the Secret Service, a government agency charged with the most grave of responsibilities, securing the life of the President and his family, is that portions of their management were not immune to the trappings of this obsession with power and the avoidance of risk. The temptation in the Secret Service to follow the herd and not "rock the boat" was suffocating at times. The upper-level management answered a number of pressing questions from their workforce with the same answer — "because that's the way we've always done it" — so often, that it became a tragic, ongoing joke among the rank-and-file agents.

The federal government bureaucracy is so thick and layered that the management at the top of agencies such as the Secret Service is insulated from the agents doing the work at the bottom. This layer of insulation provides the incentives for many of the managing members of the organization to maintain the status quo, despite glaring inefficiencies. Whereas innovation and creativity in problem-solving can provide for material and psychological rewards in the private sector — through salary increases, bonuses, and promotions — my experience within government is the polar opposite. The impetus for change and innovation within the government is external, not internal because there is little reward for pointing out errors when serving in management. Those "errors" and mistakes are historical decisions made by other managers within the Secret Service, and publicly exposing them through work channels is a career death sentence if that person discovers that you were the one who sounded the alarm. It's one thing not to be rewarded for trying to fix a problem, but it's something entirely different to be punished for pointing out a problem and proposing a solution for it. My experiences within the federal government, in dealing with a number of managers from different agencies within its infrastructure, have led me to believe that there are limited exceptions to this model.


Excerpted from The Fight by Dan Bongino. Copyright © 2015 Dan Bongino. Excerpted by permission of St. Martin's Press.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Table of Contents

Acknowledgments vii

Author’s Note ix

Introduction: There Are No Silver Medals in Politics 1

1. The White House Fence Jumper 9

2. What Bureaucrats Can Learn from the Secret Service Security Model 27

3. The IRS Scandal— Have We Reached a Turning Point? 39

4. Hitting the Emergency Brake on Out- of- Control Government 49

5. The White House Drone Crash and the Coming Privacy Nightmare 61

6. Istanbul, Bowe Bergdahl, and the Unforgivable Sin 69

7. The Future of Policing 89

8. The Bureaucrats Are Far More Dangerous Than the Gun Carriers 97

9. Charlie Hebdo, Paris Terror, and Presidential Leadership 115

10. The “Establishment” Versus the “Grassroots” 123

11. It’s All About the Money, but Not for Long 137

12. Media Bias: Fighting Back 151

13. Everyone Wants to Be the President and Here’s Why 163

14. Your Vote Matters, but Not for the Reasons You May Think 169

15. It’s Not Just the Lobbyists Destroying the Political Process 177

16. Why Blue States Matter 185

17. Can the Current Two- Party System Save Us? 193

18. Are There Any Good Guys Left? Here’s the Bad News 201

19. Hillary’s E- mails, Sebelius’ Politicking, and Clapper’s Lies 205

20. America Needs to “Get Big” 213

Index 217

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The Fight: A Secret Service Agent's Inside Account of Security Failings and the Political Machine 4.8 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 4 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Gymbeaux More than 1 year ago
If you are into politics, this book is for you! Dan Bongino is a former Secret Service Agent who has made two bids to run for national office. His book, The Fight, is not only an inside look at life in and around the White House and security details for the President and other VIPs, he discusses in detail the obstacles thrown in his path by the "Establishment" politics as well as media bias that kept his message from getting the public attention it deserved and should have gotten in a media world that otherwise should be fair and impartial but isn't. I thoroughly enjoyed reading this book. It gave me an insight to Washington and local politics that I have only known from the edges. If you feel you have been targeted by political organizations and candidates using telephone calls, emails, social media posts, it may be because you have been labeled to be a Super Voter. Read Chapter 14 if you want to know more about being a Super Voter. More importantly, there are leadership lessons embedded in the book that anyone in business can learn from. It is a very enlightening and enjoyable book to read. Who should read it? Anyone interested in politics, everyone interested in possibly running for a political office, anyone interested in improving their leadership styles and effectiveness and anyone who votes! That covers just about everyone.
B-loNY More than 1 year ago
The author uses his experiences as a former secret service agent and a candidate for public office to "call out" hidden politics in both. Some agent stories are new and have not been told in his previous book.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
“The Fight” is loaded with red meat, grit, fire and passion. Dan rightly gives his most sincere thanks for his accomplishments to the people closest to him; Paula, his wife and his two daughters for all the sacrifices they made during his 2012 Senate and 2014 Congressional campaigns in Maryland. It is obvious that Dan was deeply affected by his very close political losses, but his failures can turn out to be the winning strategy for others. Although the election results are important, it is ‘the fight’ that really matters. Thus, the title of the book. Very succinctly, Dan details his experiences with the Secret Service for 12 years working under three Presidents – Clinton, Bush and two years of Obama. Luckily for Dan, the work ethic of the Secret Service he had acquired before the Obama years. It was working to protect Obama that convinced Dan to terminate his prestigious career and run for Senate in 2012. The phrase ‘not on my watch” that was ingrained into in Secret Service agents could possibly be the only reason nothing has happened to the President. Further explaining his work ethic, Dan stated, “I would rather work in an organization full of people anxiously seeking out public recognition for the hard work they do instead of working at an agency that worships mediocrity and encourages everyone ‘not to stand out’”. There are hints that the morale of the Secret Service changed when the management of the agency changed from Treasury to Homeland Security. Throughout the book, Dan details his own personal experiences, digests them and serves up words of wisdom so that others may learn from him. My personal favorite: “Few people ever get into a bad situation by shutting their mouths when they don’t know what they are talking about. When in doubt, keep quiet: the absence of a comment is not the same as a comment absent of information”. Having served under both Democrat and Republican administrations, Dan got a birds eye view into the belly of both beasts. His stories are quite revealing. You need to pick up the book and read it for yourself. My takeaway from reading this page-turner is Dan Bongino is a man who truly loves his country and wants to serve her. He did not enlist in the military, but he did serve on the mean streets of New York City as a cop and 12 years as a Secret Service agent, willing to sacrifice his life to save a President. Then he went on to run for both houses of Congress from Maryland. He now lives in Florida. Who knows what Dan will choose to do next? His fight is far from over.