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Secret Service uses alcohol as ‘coping mechanism’

The director of the US Secret Service, responsible for protecting the president, has admitted the agency is having difficulty dealing with agents using alcohol to cope with stress.

The Secret Service is responsible for the protection of the US president and vice president

Director Joseph Clancy told Congress on Tuesday that the country’s top security force had a culture of hiding information, instead of sharing it.

On 4 March, two Secret Service agents allegedly under the influence of alcohol hit a barricade while returning a vehicle to the White House late at night.

The pair had been at a reception and were returning to pick up one of the agent’s cars, Clancy told a house of appropriations subcommittee, expressing that the incident was one of a much bigger problem.

“We do have an element that goes to alcohol,” Clancuy said, as reported by The Guardian. “We’ve got to find a way to help some of these people that are going towards alcohol as a coping mechanism for a stressful job.

“When you’re working 12 hours a day, and you think you have the next day off, and it’s cancelled… and the stress that we’re under. I know people don’t want to hear us talk about them.”

He continued to explain the secret service had “kicked off a work-life initiative” several weeks ago to offer help to agents who need it.

Health concerns

Chairman of the appropriations committee Hal Rogers said: “I’m concerned about [agents’] health as well, but I’m more concerned about the health of the president.

“This is the latest episode of agents drinking, carousing, on and off duty, that this agency has suffered in the last few years.

“It’s not working right, Mr Director.”

In regards to the most recent incident, Clancy explained no action had yet been taken as he was waiting for an internal inspector general’s report to be completed.

“I don’t have the ability to just fire people at will,” he said. “In the government – my understanding is that you cannot do that.

“It will take time to change the culture. There’s no excuse for the actions.”

Clancy, former head of the president’s protective detail, came out of retirement to replace Julia Pierson, who resigned in October under pressure from repeated scandals as director.

In September 2014, an army veteran made it over the White House fence and made it inside the building, while earlier that same year in March a secret service agent on a trip to the Netherlands was found passed out inside a hotel hallway.

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