Magazine article The New Yorker

Second Act

Magazine article The New Yorker

Second Act

Article excerpt

SECOND ACT

Dan Bongino, an N.Y.P.D. officer turned Secret Service agent turned Republican candidate for Congress, was driving from Washington, D.C., to his home outside Baltimore last Wednesday when he got a tip. "The head of the Secret Service is resigning," he said, and told his driver to turn around. Minutes later, the news broke. The resignation came on the heels of two recent security snafus: an armed intruder had entered the White House, and a man in possession of a gun and a criminal record rode in an elevator with the President. "I thought it was from the Onion," Bongino said, of footage showing a man zigzagging past White House security. Bongino worked for Presidents George W. Bush and Obama, and said that fence jumpers are regular incursions, deflected with ease. "The plan is so layered and robust that they're planning for secondary and tertiary intrusions," Bongino said, before allowing that even the best agents don't always follow protocol. Once, while driving Obama through Arlington National Cemetery, Bongino pulled out his cell phone to text a colleague. "He gave me the stink eye," Bongino said of the President. "I thought to myself, Oh, boy."

Bongino, who is thirty-nine, with a crewcut and a visibly broken nose, grew up above his grandfather's bar, in Queens, and joined the N.Y.P.D.'s cadet program when he was twenty. He took mixed-martial-arts classes at a gym above a Gray's Papaya in midtown, and the training has occasionally come in handy on the job. "We had a guy in Long Island who threatened the President," Bongino said. "He ran behind a deli counter and grabbed a cleaver. That got ugly quick."

But restraining a man with a knife and making a tackle on the White House lawn are not the first tools in a Secret Service agent's arsenal. "If you've got to resort to bodyguard work, I've got news for you: it's too late," Bongino said, noting that an agent's work is done mostly in advance, and that it requires creativity: "We're like the MacGyvers of federal law enforcement." Before an event at Hofstra University during Hillary Clinton's 2000 Senate campaign--she was still First Lady and entitled to a security detail--Bongino asked that a row of windows be blocked out with temporary spray paint intended to look like a dusting of snow. (A maintenance man used permanent black paint instead, which worked but didn't make the university very happy. …

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