Friday, January 18, 2008

Secret Service Agent: ‘The VP's [security] detail is involved in a cover-up,’

It must be hard being a Secret Service Agent assigned to Dick Cheney. Consider the plight of Agent Virgil Reichle, who was assigned to guard the Vice President in 2006 while Cheney stayed at Colorado ski resort. A man named Steven Howards approached the veep, told him his Iraq policies were "disgusting" and touched him on the shoulder in the process.

About 10 minutes later Agent Reichle, who had not witnessed the incident himself, but who had spoken to two agents who were present, arrested Mr. Howards, telling him that he was being charged with assaulting the vice president. Later, Howards (who spent about three hours in jail) was charged with misdemeanor harassment that charge was later dismissed at the request of local prosecutor Mark Hurlburt. (you may remember him as the prosecutor of Kobe Bryant)

Now Mr. Howards has filed a civil lawsuit and the agents are contradicting each other in depositions. As the New York Times reports today (h/t David Feige):

The agent who made the arrest... said in a deposition that he was left hanging with an untenable arrest because two agents assigned to the vice president had at first agreed with a Denver agent that there had been assault on Mr. Cheney by Mr. Howards, then changed their stories to say that no assault had occurred.

Mr. Reichle, who did not witness the encounter, said in his deposition that he believed the vice president’s security detail had wanted the Howards arrest to go away so that Mr. Cheney would not be inconvenienced by a court case.

Basically, agents Doyle, McLaughlin and Daniels witness the man touch Cheney. Then, according to Reichle, Doyle describes the contact to Reichle and Daniels and McLaughlin agree. Reichle then arrests Howards, who is released 3 hours later.

Here's where it gets interesting. When Daniels and McLaughlin later claim in written statements that no assault occurred, Agent Reichle is left looking foolish. Reichle and Daniels then talk on the phone, but offer differing accounts of what was said. According to Reichle,

“I asked him if someone was pressuring him to change his testimony,” Mr. Reichle said in the deposition.

“What did he say?” asked Mr. Lane, the lawyer for Mr. Howards.

“He says, ‘No,’ ” Mr. Reichle said. “I said, ‘Well, this isn’t the rendition that I had heard three to four hours ago.’ ”

“And what did he say?”

“He hung up,” Mr. Reichle said.

So Reichle asks his supervisor to subject all the agents to lie detector tests (Where's an illegal wiretap when you need one!) and then, according to Reichle, who was asked what in a deposition his supervisor's reaction to this request was:

"“Don’t go there, Gus.”

[Deposing lawyer:] “What does that mean?”

“It means let it lie, drop it,” Mr. Reichle said.

In his deposition, Mr. McLaughlin said that Mr. Reichle had used the word “cover-up” as early as the morning after the encounter."

But here's the punchline of the article, and it's easy to miss. Where do you suppose Agent Reichle, the man who claimed Cheney's security detail changed their stories and left him hanging out to dry, works now? He's still a Secret Service agent. But as the article says, Agent Reichle,

"...has since been transferred to Guam."


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