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The not so Secret Service

By Gen. (Ret.) James 'Spider' Marks for CNN
April 26, 2012 -- Updated 1900 GMT (0300 HKT)
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • The scandal involving prostitution in Colombia has embarrassed the Secret Service
  • Marks: We expect them to set the standard for discipline and leadership
  • "Secret Service is a great agency that failed at its core mission," says Marks

Editor's note: James "Spider" Marks is the former Commanding General of the U.S. Army Intelligence Center. As the senior intelligence officer for the 2003 liberation of Iraq, Marks was responsible for creating a complete understanding of Saddam Hussein's military capacity and his intentions.

(CNN) -- In the past two weeks, the U.S. Secret Service has had a number of agents either resign or get fired in disgrace for their actions in Colombia. The uniformed service members supporting the agents are being investigated under the Uniformed Code of Military Justice, and the media frenzy remains insatiable.

Are we surprised? Isn't this story about grown men acting badly? Of course not, it's far more troubling.

This is about at least one disciplined and professional organization failing to lead or act consistent with the discipline required of their service, whether it is the secret service or the military.

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We expect them to set the standard for discipline and leadership and they failed at both. The good news is we found out about these shenanigans before this incredibly bad behavior became an acceptable new, lower standard.

The problem, you see, is leadership has no variable speed, no levels of acceptance. There is but one standard. You either lead or you don't. Leadership is about getting people to do things they otherwise would not do when no one else is looking. Well, no surprise here that in our cyber world, when everything everyone does is subject to scrutiny, some one is always looking.

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It's naïve to assume otherwise.

The Secret Service and their military support team were idiots to assume that they could act badly and get away with it. As citizens and taxpayers, we'd expect good discipline from these folks without having to have some one check up on them. But sadly, they failed us and demonstrated that they need supervision. They need leadership.

Don't think that this band of agents and their military support was anything other than a gaggle of guys, acting more like punks that leaders.

My suggestion is that there was not one leader in the bunch. If there was a leader, he failed to show up for the most important mission he accepted...protecting our President.

Something did not go wrong; something is wrong.

My suggestion is that the Secret Service is a great agency that failed at its core mission...to lead and act like no one is looking.

However, for some inexplicable reason that challenges the agency's core, it defined leadership in an entirely unrecognizable way. These are not young "troops" acting out badly.

Did events in Colombia change everything or was something wrong long before events in Colombia?

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The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of General Marks.

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