Following Secret Service Director Julia Pierson’s recent resignation over a major security breach at the White House, new allegations are facing the president’s embattled security detail. According to Phil Williams at News Channel 5, Nashville Police Chief Steve Anderson sent a scathing letter last week to the House Committee on Oversight complaining that Secret Service agents asked Nashville police officers to falsify a warrant during an investigation into a local resident who allegedly posted “threatening” comments about President Obama on Facebook.
Williams’ report notes that, in January of 2013, Secret Service agents working out of the Nashville field office visited the home of the resident who made the Facebook postings and knocked on his door. Then, an agent called local police and asked for backup, stating that the individual was refusing to let them in without a warrant and appeared to be armed. When Nashville police arrived, they informed the Secret Service agents that the man in question is a licensed gun owner, did not violate the law, and that a warrant would be required in order to investigate further. Chief Anderson said in his letter, “one of the agents then asked a [Nashville police] sergeant to ‘wave a piece of paper’ in an apparent effort to dupe the resident into thinking that they indeed had a warrant.” Faced with a request to violate their oath of office and the rights of a citizen, the officers with the Metro Nashville Police Department flatly refused and left the scene.
Chief Anderson, upset that his officers were asked to violate a citizen’s rights in a way that could have escalated into a dangerous situation, contacted then Secret Service Director Julia Pierson and Assistant Director A.T. Smith to file a complaint. Pierson did not reply to Anderson, but Smith did so in a demeaning tone, essentially telling Nashville’s police chief to “mind [his] own affairs” and refusing to investigate the incident.
An angry Anderson then met with officials in the Secret Service’s Nashville field office and asked, “Do you think it is appropriate to wave a piece of paper in the air and tell him you have a warrant when you do not have a warrant?” In his letter, Anderson noted that an unnamed Secret Service official replied, “I don’t know. I’m not a lawyer.” Anderson then inquired as to why Secret Service agents would request that Nashville police falsify a warrant if they felt that it was something that they had lawful authority to do, implying that merely by asking, the agents were demonstrating their understanding that they were making an illegal request. Anderson noted that his “complaint was not well-received” and that officials would not offer any reassurance that similar incidents would be prevented in the future.
Chief Anderson believes that the Nashville incident is evidence that corruption in the Secret Service runs deeper than just its director. He feels that there are problems with the culture of the organization and that major administrative reform is necessary. As the above-embedded video by News Channel 5 points out, Anderson indicated that, in the future, Nashville police officers will have to request permission from top officials before assisting Secret Service agents in further investigations.
As a side note, back in May of 2013, shortly after the incident, Secret Service agents did not invite Nashville police to assist in providing security for First Lady Michelle Obama’s visit to the Music City. It is not known whether the dispute over the warrant factored into that decision, but it is unprecedented for local police to be left out of security plans during a visit by a first lady.