- The Washington Times - Friday, September 8, 2000

A Georgia congresswoman says the U.S. Secret Service engaged in "Jim Crow" practices in limiting the number of black agents assigned to guard Al Gore and accused the vice president of having a low "Negro tolerance level."
Rep. Cynthia A. McKinney, four-term Georgia Democrat, said she was saddened but not shocked by revelations last week by black Secret Service agents involved in a discrimination lawsuit who said a limit had been placed on the number who could serve on Mr. Gore's security detail.
"Gore's Negro tolerance level has never been too high," she said in a news brief on her congressional Web site. "I've never known him to have more than one black person around him at any given time. I'm not shocked, but I am certainly saddened by this revelation."
In a pending lawsuit filed in February with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, the Secret Service was accused of failing to promote black agents to management positions despite performance ratings showing they were qualified. It said black agents were subjected to discrimination involving transfers, assignments and training, and that the agency rarely disciplined white agents who used racial epithets or committed racially hostile acts.
During a news conference last week, 10 black agents named in the suit called on Mr. Gore to show the necessary "moral leadership" to end racial discrimination in the Secret Service. They said Mr. Gore was aware of complaints of racial problems within the agency and on his security detail, but made no effort to address them.
Sean Nichols, spokesman for Mrs. McKinney, said the congresswoman was traveling this week and unavailable for comment, but would return to Washington shortly and planned to vigorously address the Secret Service issue.
Mr. Nichols said no decision had yet been made on what Mrs. McKinney was going to do, but he said, "She has concerns, and I can assure you she is going to take a hard look at this."
Mrs. McKinney, who is black, said she was troubled that the black agents had received no response from Mr. Gore or his staff about concerns they had about a limitation on the number of black agents who could be assigned to his security detail even after Mr. Gore and his staff had been advised.
"That these black officers had no response from Gore's staff is symptomatic of a larger problem," she said. "Gore would like these problems to just go away, but they'll never go away if they're not addressed."
Gore campaign officials did not respond yesterday to questions concerning Mrs. McKinney's concerns.
Rep. Maxine Waters, California Democrat and a leader of the Congressional Black Caucus, also did not return calls for comment. The Black Caucus historically has been actively involved in cases of suspected discrimination at the federal level.
Secret Service spokesman Jim Mackin has declined to discuss the lawsuit, saying the agency would respond to it in court which he described as the "appropriate venue." But he said the agency is "proud of its record on diversity," adding that it had "actively engaged in ensuring a diverse work environment and affording equal opportunity to each of our employees."
Mr. Mackin noted that of seven officials assigned as the top assistants to Secret Service Director Brian L. Stafford, two are black; that seven of the agency's 11 largest field offices are headed by minority agents, including four blacks; and that of the Secret Service's Senior Executive Service those considered the agency's top management 17 percent are black.
Mrs. McKinney, a member of the House International Relations Committee and ranking member of the International Operations and Human Rights Subcommittee, also addressed the issue of racism within the Secret Service. She said the contempt white agents hold for black agents "and black people in general" was evidenced by their attendance at annual whites-only "Good Ol' Boys Roundups" in Tennessee Mr. Gore's home state.
"The 'N' word is very visible and audible at these gatherings and these racist thoughts are brought with them to work," she said, adding without elaboration that she also had been "discriminated against at the White House by the very same people these Secret Service officers are complaining about."
In 1996, a Justice Department probe of the Tennessee roundup found ample evidence of rampant racism, public drunkenness and nudity, but concluded that local police not federal agents were to blame, although several federal authorities had attended. A report said the atmosphere was hostile to blacks and other minorities.
During their press conference, the black agents described a "pervasive failure" within the Secret Service to respond to discrimination complaints, adding that both President Clinton and Mr. Gore were told of serious problems involving black agents and had failed to respond.
Attorney Ron Schmidt, who represents the agents, said his clients were unsure who established the quota limiting the number of blacks who can serve on Mr. Gore's security detail, but said those who complained were threatened with retaliation. He said as a direct result of the complaints, one black agent was promoted as a supervisor on the detail, although the ceiling remained in effect.
Mr. Schmidt said at least six "less qualified, less experienced" white agents were named to informal supervisory positions on Mr. Gore's security detail known as "whips" over more qualified black agents. A whip is a coveted position within the Secret Service because it enhances an agent's chances for promotion.

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