Life Inside the Bubble: Why a Top-Ranked Secret Service Agent Walked Away From It All

ADVANCE PRAISE

“Dan Bongino walked away because he is an American patriot and the embodiment of the highest standards of honor, integrity, and character … exactly what we need inside the bubble.”

— Allen B. West, Lieutenant Colonel (US Army, Ret.), Member of 112th Congress

“For Dan Bongino to leave the Secret Service to fight the permanent political class could not have been easy, but his bravery is easily one of the reasons why Americans are learning more about how the D.C. “Bubble” grows but never pops.”

— Matthew Boyle, Investigative Journalist
, Breitbart News

“Real American heroes don’t come out of Hollywood or the NFL; they come in the form of courageous Americans who do the ‘Right Thing’ solely because it is a matter of conscience for them. Dan Bongino is one of those who stood boldly for truth out of a sense of patriotism even when he knew that he would pay a price; and he did. This book tells his story and is an inspiration for the readers.”

— Lt. Gen. Jerry Boykin, former U.S. Deputy Undersecretary of Defense for Intelligence

LIFE INSIDE THE BUBBLE

DAN BONGINO

LIFE INSIDE THE BUBBLE

WHY A TOP-RANKED SECRET SERVICE AGENT WALKED AWAY FROM IT ALL

LIFE INSIDE THE BUBBLE

WND Books, Inc.
Washington, D.C.

Copyright © 2013
Dan Bongino

All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced in any form or by any means—electronic, mechanical, photocopying, scanning, or otherwise—without permission in writing from the publisher, except by a reviewer, who may quote brief passages in a review.

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First Edition

Hardcover ISBN: 978-1-938067-36-5
eBook ISBN: 978-1-938067-37-2

Library of Congress information available

Printed in the United States of America
10 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1

This book is dedicated to my wife Paula and my daughters Isabel and Amelia. It is the unconditional love they have shown me that fuels my fire and their safety net of support that has allowed me to leap.

CONTENTS

Foreword by Wayne Simmons CIA (ret.)

Prologue

Acknowledgments

1
Early Years

2
NYPD Blue

3
In the Line of Fire

4
The End of the Clinton Era

5
9/11

6
An Assassin Among Us

7
Training the Next Generation

8
Dignitary Protection and the Fight to Protect

9
The “Big Show”: The Presidential Protective Division

10
Transportation: It’s Not Simply about Motorcades

11
The President’s Life in My Hands

12
Missile Treaties and the Return to Indonesia

13
Oil Spills, Indonesia Again, and Making a War Zone “Safe”

14
Media Spin vs. Security Reality

15
Giving Back the Gun and Shield

16
From Behind the Camera to the Front

17
Israel and a Surprise Entrance into the Primary

18
The Campaign Heats Up

19
A Political Loss, and Why Action Matters

20
The Real Scandal of “Fast and Furious”

21
Benghazi: Who Gave the Order to Stand Down?

22
Boston: Too Many Agencies, Not Enough Communication

23
Our Government Has Failed Us

Afterword

Index

FOREWORD

A
FTER SERVING ALMOST THREE DECADES
with the Central Intelligence Agency in some of the most unique and dangerous capacities of clandestine and covert operations, my life often depended upon what the author of this book correctly describes as strength and character. I have discovered through personal experience and by witnessing terrorist threats worldwide that character and training are keys to the success not only of civilian intelligence agencies like the CIA but to personal security details of all branches of government. And the elite of the personal security world is, without a doubt, the Presidential
Protective Division of the United States Secret Service.

Dan Bongino served with the PPD for five years, and in
Life Inside the Bubble
, he gives the readers a very personal insight and understanding of the strength, courage, and conviction it takes to be the best of the best in the US Secret Service. The discipline to become a member, whether serving on the presidential detail or with the Uniformed Division, is not for the cerebrally weak or those with a flawed character. It is a very special individual who can perform the demanding tasks required, one who is physically and mentally disciplined, ethical, adaptive, and flexible. The character strengths of those working for the Secret Service should be the blueprint for other federal agencies.

Like many who reside in the state of Maryland, I became aware of Dan when he was a new political force within the local Republican Party, establishing himself as a future conservative star just before his incredible run for office in 2012. As I listened to his strong approach on drug policy reform, criminal justice reform, and fiscal policy, I immediately wanted to understand just who this man was and where he came from.
Life Inside the Bubble
delivers on that count—and many more.

The events Dan refers to in this book are true, from his childhood years attempting to understand life’s unpredictable and sometimes violent path to protecting the most powerful men and women in the world. It is impossible to read this book and not come away with a feeling of elation, knowing that only in America can you grow up in a humble, uncertain environment, only to one day find yourself as one of the faces of hope for America’s future.

Wayne Simmons CIA (ret.)
July 2013

PROLOGUE

T
HERE WAS A RECRUITING POSTER
in the Secret Service headquarters during my time there that showed a number of steely-eyed agents surrounding the presidential limo as it drove down Pennsylvania Avenue. Above the picture the tagline read, “Some grow up wanting to be the president and some grow up wanting to protect the president.” It was a clever line, playing on every young boy’s desire to be the cop in a game of cops and robbers. The Secret Service is populated with dedicated men and women, largely attracted to the job because of the purity of the mission: keep the president safe. Agents agree to sacrifice themselves for
the safety of the president regardless of his politics or his demeanor. The job requires incredibly long hours, at times in extreme conditions, and a commitment to live your life shadowing someone else while asking your family to understand the extreme sacrifice you may have to make and to temporarily live without you while you travel with the president.

The incredible weight of responsibility that accompanies every Secret Service agent, and specifically those in the Presidential Protective Division, has a tendency to distract agents from the outside world. Politics—whether those of the president you protect, or your feelings about the economy or foreign affairs—take a backseat to the daily rigors of the job. This distraction serves a purpose, as it keeps the agents’ personal feelings about those they protect relatively ambivalent. Although I am certain that the strong character and unwavering dedication of the agents I worked with during my time with the Secret Service would never allow them to inject their personal or political beliefs into their job performance, it never hurts to believe in the man you are protecting. To believe in his leadership abilities and his policy prescriptions for a better tomorrow always serves as an added bonus.

After witnessing the endless political games across two presidential administrations while I served as a Secret Service agent, I knew I had to make a decision. It was unfair to the president and the Secret Service to become distracted, even for a moment. But it was becoming more and more difficult to accompany the president and listen to another speech whose content was contrary to the principles I believe make this country exceptional. The speeches ran contrary to everything in America’s history that makes us incomparable as a nation, and to the principles we need in our future to maintain our unique position as a beacon of liberty and prosperity. I gave the Secret Service everything I had to give, and although I was deeply disturbed by the tone and direction of President Obama’s speeches, I did not want to send the wrong message by resigning while assigned to his security detail. Compounding the problem was the trust the Secret Service placed in me. I was the top-ranked agent on my operational shift and was consistently assigned to conduct the security advances for presidential visits with the greatest degree of difficulty. To leave abruptly was sure to create a stir that I desperately wanted to avoid.

I decided the best path was to reapply myself during my remaining time with the president’s security detail but to start looking for alternate
paths for the next phase of my life. I loved my position at the Secret Service and was well aware of the dismal job market created by the economic recession. Giving it all up—the badge I proudly wore, the goodwill I built in over a decade of dedicated service, and the security of employment with a prestigious law-enforcement agency—was the toughest decision my wife and I were ever going to make. Despite the consequences, we knew it was time for a change. We both understood that there is a point in everyone’s life where you must make a tough choice and follow your passion. Having seen the dark underbelly of Washington, DC, politics, we chose to take a risky step forward and do our best to affect change for the better.

My path into politics had a clear mission: to sound the alarm on what I had learned living inside the “DC bubble” by highlighting the very real consequences of an ever-expanding government and its insulated bureaucracy. My intent is not to criticize or minimize the efforts of the many government employees who are motivated by a genuine desire to serve. From my experience, any talk of bold change, transparency, and innovative new models of operation are typically pushed aside for incremental fixes. Sadly, our government prefers small Band-Aids to major surgery, even when the wounds are gaping. This book will take you through my journey and my experience with select people inside the bubble who displayed incomparable character and dignity and some who did not. In the closing chapters, I will share my insider perspective on the Fast and Furious investigation, the terrorist attacks on the Benghazi diplomatic mission and CIA annex, and the Boston Marathon terror attack. You will determine for yourself if the ongoing problems we have seen in law-enforcement investigations, counterterrorism, and international security are the result of a broken system or of the failing of our current leader’s principles and governing philosophy.

ACKNOWLEDGMENTS

T
HERE ARE MANY PEOPLE TO THANK
who helped light the path described in this book but none as important as my wife, Paula. Paula watched me struggle to find my path during my final months with the Secret Service. Watching me question everything was as painful for her as it was for me, and the decision to leave everything behind would never have been possible without her steadfast support. We knew we were doing the right thing, but in retrospect, I am still in awe of the sacrifice she was willing to make to support me. Her courage is inspirational to me and fuels the emotion in my words as I continue to
travel and speak to various groups.

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