Secret Service officers learning to protect the president spend hours inside “shoot houses,” which inside resemble movie soundstages–big, empty spaces with changeable scenery where trainees, armed with paintball guns, simulate harrowing situations they may face guarding the commander in chief and other VIPs. Last month, Newsweek reports, a Secret Service trainer unlocked a shoot house to set it up for a drill session, and found a a noose, hanging from the railing of an overhead staircase. A white instructor admitted he’d hung the rope, and was put on paid leave. Instead of making an example of the officer to signal that racial bigotry won’t be tolerated, the agency quibbled over whether it was a noose at all.
The agency has been similarly defensive about racist e-mails among senior Service officials that emerged last month. One allegedly sent in 2003 was titled “Harlem Spelling Bee,” which contained a list of “black” definitions of words. Another included a joke about a lynching. Officials call the e-mails “deplorable,” and the agency’s director sent out a stern memo telling employees that messages sent from work e-mail accounts “must not reflect poorly” on the agency. The FBI, which faced a discrimination lawsuit from black employees in the early 1990s, settled the case and put in place new hiring and promotion rules to avoid any appearance of racial bias. The Secret Service has refused even to acknowledge a problem. Since 2000, the agency has delayed a discrimination case against it, at times allegedly resisting orders by a federal magistrate to turn over evidence.