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Commonwealth Club: Carol Leonnig: The Rise and Fall of the Secret Service


May 28, 2021

One of the final things Abraham Lincoln did on the day of his death was approve legislation that created what would become the Secret Service. Originally created to suppress counterfeit currency, the Secret Service has since become the primary agency to protect prominent politicians and their families. Following the assassination of President John F. Kennedy in 1963, the Secret Service was whipped into shape. The agency transformed into a proud, elite unit that would redeem themselves again two decades later by successfully thwarting an assassination attempt against President Ronald Reagan.

Now, in the 21st century, the Secret Service is better defined by its failure to avert break-ins at the White House, armed gunmen firing at government buildings, a massive prostitution scandal in Cartagena, and many other instances of negligence. Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Carol Leonnig has been covering the Secret Service since 2000, and her new book, Zero Fail: The Rise and Fall of the Secret Service, exposes the triumphs and failures of the Secret Service, documenting a broken agency in desperate need of reform. Through interviews with whistleblowers, current agents and former agents, Leonnig reveals what she says is the Secret Service’s toxic work culture, outdated training techniques and deep resentment among the ranks with the agency’s leadership.

Join us as Carol Leonnig unmasks the rise and fall of the Secret Service, and puts out a much-needed call for the agency’s improvement and action.

SPEAKERS Carol Leonnig Investigative Reporter, The Washington Post; Author, Zero Fail: The Rise and Fall of the Secret Service In Conversation with Marisa Lagos Correspondent for California Politics and Government, KQED; Twitter @mlagos

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