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Zero Fail: The Rise and Fall of the Secret Service

4.35  ·  Rating details ·  827 ratings  ·  104 reviews
The first definitive account of the rise and fall of the Secret Service, from the Kennedy assassination to the ongoing scandals under Obama and Trump--by Pulitzer Prize winner and #1 New York Times bestselling co-author of A Very Stable Genius

Carol Leonnig has been covering the Secret Service for The Washington Post for most of the last decade, bringing to light the gaffes
Hardcover, 336 pages
Published May 11th 2021 by Random House
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Susan A Fieglein Yes. I really liked the book. She was as unbiased as possible although she dislikes Trump & family as much as most rational people do.

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JD DiLoreto-Hill
May 23, 2021 rated it it was amazing
I’d give this 10 stars if I could. I couldn’t put it town. This is one of the most well-written, fascinating, and thorough political books I’ve read in years. It will leave you absolutely jaw-dropped at how genuinely at-risk the most senior leaders in our government are and have been. The details provided are just mind blowing.
May 19, 2021 rated it it was amazing
I read most of this last night and seven other people have holds on it so I'll return it and finish later. What I read made me sick enough. I bought Secret Service dogs and realized there were problems with SS then. (SS Secret Service)
Anyway, the Trump years were very expensive for us taxpayers and the SS was not very efficient. Unmasking during the pandemic was a big set back with many agents ill or on quarantine. Many SS members are Republicans and some are huge Trump supporters. Biden needed
Dec 16, 2020 rated it it was amazing
This author is amazing! Her books are gold. Best Secret Service authors: Carol Leonnig, Vincent Palamara, and Dan Emmett.
May 27, 2021 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Carol Leonnig writes as only a journalist does… straightforward, pulling no punches, and highly readable. Her descriptions of the Kennedy White House bring new light to the way JFK operated as a man, a politician, and president. Her description of the assassination, as seen through the eyes of the Secret Service agents in the President's detail, is perhaps the most chilling I've read. I was a junior in high school when Kennedy was shot… all these years later Leonnig brought me to tears.

The road
Kathleen Nagro
May 24, 2021 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is an amazing read and it’s quite shocking. Anyone interested in politics must read this book. I especially hope that the current administration reads the book as it’s obvious that the Secret Service needs to be completely revamped in order to keep people safe. The book has a broad reach in reviewing all the previous presidential assassinations and the security breaches that allowed them to occur, and the tenure of the modern presidents and their relationship with the Secret Service. It’s a ...more
Linda Galella
Investigative Reporting Takes A Detour

I haveappreciated other books by Carol Leonnig because she reports fairly and mostly without personal bias. That’s not my opinion of this effort, “Zero Fail”.

Beginning with her information on Kennedy, it does not agree with what I have come to understand is the most accepted information regarding his relationship with his Secret Service detail. Opinions do differ and information does change over the years, but her facts aren’t ringing true for me.

Johnson, Ni
May 25, 2021 rated it it was amazing
Probably one of the best books of 2020. I immediately was interested in this book when I heard it was coming out in January — I had listened to Carol Leonnig’s “A Very Stable Genius” with no expectations but got through it really fast, found it written in a nonpretentious accessible and compelling way. This book was also written in a nonpretentious, accessible but compelling manner. It looks at the secret service all the way back to before the Kennedy days.

So many new things I learned in here;
May 20, 2021 rated it it was amazing
This was a real eye-opener!
Susan Lampe
May 30, 2021 rated it it was amazing
Secret, scandal, and shortcomings of the Secret Service, the agency tasked with protecting the President of the United States, are revealed in this comprehensive and meticulously reported story by author and Washington Post reporter Carol Leonnig. She guides us through the history of presidential assassinations beginning with President William McKinley in Buffalo, New York in l901. She dips back into the l800s to the creation of the Secret Service as part of the Treasury Department in l865, afte ...more
May 31, 2021 rated it did not like it
Zero Fail: The Rise and Fall of the Secret Service by Carol Leonnig is a book about the Secret Service and their primary mission of protecting the President of the United States. Zero Fail has major problems as a book. First, Leonnig writes the book as a series of newspaper articles rather than as a coherent narrative. As a book, Zero Fail should contain threads introducing an issue, documenting the issue throughout the history of the Secret Service and discussing the root cause of the issue and ...more
Scribe Publications
Terrifying … There is certainly heroism here, and there are certainly plots that were foiled, and there are certainly instances of an agency in the moment being well run and foiling an attack and chasing something down and being on top of stuff. But there is an astonishing litany of stuff they have done wrong and scrapes we have narrowly avoided in this country by the skin of our teeth and through sheer luck … It just flips your stomach up and down. This is one of those books that will go down a ...more
May 24, 2021 rated it it was amazing
As soon as I saw that Carol Leonnig wrote a book about the Secret Service, I bought it and devoured it all weekend. The writing and reporting are outstanding. The Secret Service is represented fairly, from the glamorous to the truly unglamorous parts of the job. The leadership and its barriers and boundaries were reported fairly. (Yes, they need to hire more women. Hillary was right in 1992!) This book successfully reports the history of how the responsibilities of the Secret Services increased ...more
May 23, 2021 rated it it was amazing
Audiobook narrated by Maggi-Meg Reed and Carol Leonnig.

Despite the 20 hour length, I just kept listening to this fascinating book about the Secret Service so I really did finish it in two days.
May 24, 2021 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Wow. Well worth reading.
Pat Painter
Jun 01, 2021 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Really interesting, situations you would have never guessed. Sort of fits things though - we pay entertainers, politicians, and some CEO so much money. When the teachers, firemen, police, and nurses, can't get decent wages. ...more
May 27, 2021 rated it liked it
Part history of the agency tasked to protect our leaders, part investigation of what goes wrong. This book is at times infuriating to read because of what is exposed...frat boy behavior by agents swept under the rug (boys will be boys), criticism of the Secret Service to make political points against the opposing party, racism and sexism in the ranks. The last chapter covers the Trump administration and the expenses charged to the agency that enriched the President himself.
Jun 01, 2021 rated it liked it
This was fine, but I think she laid too much at the Trump Administration’s feet when she spent 17+ hours before getting to Trump explaining what a dumpster fire of an organization the Secret Service was/is. My main take away is that it’s quite miraculous that Obama is alive.
Rebecca A
May 18, 2021 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Wrong Book

I did not like any of it and I want my money back. I paid $10:00 for crap. Not good
Anthony Caruso
May 31, 2021 rated it it was amazing
Carol Leonnig's "Zero Fail: The Rise and Fall of the Secret Service" is at times, an inspiring read, while far more frequently, a terrifying one. It's inspiring to think there are brave and honorable men and women who willingly sign up for one of the most highest risk jobs on the planet, which would require you to lay down your own life to protect your charges, and it was truly mesmerizing reading about all of their heroics over the years. It was much more terrifying on many occasions, however, ...more
Jun 06, 2021 added it
Zero Fail builds a case for the reader to help understand the current state of the Secret Service through a handful of stories from agents and other former staff who worked in close proximity to Presidents - starting with JFK. Some of her longer and more detailed chapters are simply more detailed because of her own deep reporting and intimate knowledge on specific subjects. Though she lacks detail on other more important matters and gets only a few small facts slightly off but for the average re ...more
In my almost 70 years of life, the Secret Service has lost only one president to assassination and that was back in 1963. Reagan was shot in 1981 and survived. There are no tellings on how many assassination attempts were foiled by the Secret Service.

That being said, it appears, based on this book, that the Secret Service has been more lucky than good over the decades. It appears to have been mismanaged in almost every presidential administration. Inept and mediocre managers have been responsibl
Jun 05, 2021 rated it it was amazing
I was thoroughly enthralled with Carol Leonnig’s richly detailed account of the history and culture of the US Secret Service. Leonnig is an engaging story teller and simultaneously meticulous in her documentation of facts and important background information.
The near 500 page book was not an easy or by any means quick read, and at times I found I had to take breaks from almost too much information. With each new president, it was disheartening to be reminded of the many incidents in which the s
May 26, 2021 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Did you know Obama got 30 threat calls per day immediately after he won his first Presidential election? Did you know the Secret Service is often an undisciplined bunch of alcoholic, sex-crazed madmen? Did you know that many are as partisan as the rest of America, vocal on social media, and calling the January 6 insurrectionists "patriots"? Did you know Joe Biden has called on the agents who protected him as VP for his current Presidential protection because he doesn't trust the current band of ...more
May 31, 2021 rated it it was amazing
I'm giving it five stars to offset one of the one-star reviews I'm sure will be given by people who either didn't read it or read it but didn't understand it. It's not a hit piece on anyone, but an investigation into an organization that's losing touch with its basic charter and how they've allowed themselves to politicize one of the last groups that should be politicized. The reporting here is calling for better working conditions and more respect for the rank-and-file workers in the secret ser ...more
Jun 08, 2021 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A Chronicle of Bad Management and Increasing Politicization

I learned a lot of new information about historical events I lived through. On the occasions I came in contact with Secret Service agents during my time working at the Department of Justice, I had no idea of the very difficult circumstances they were forced to endure. They were always professional and highly competent. I do wish Carol had shared her insights about what it might take to turn things around for this agency in crisis, beyond
May 25, 2021 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
The Secret Service with its frat-boy culture, lies, hiding the truth from Congress, the press, as well as their bosses. They are now so politicized they can't even do their job. Can this agency be saved? or should we instead have the President just do what celebrities do - hire their own bodyguards and disable this corrupt, unworkable agency? At least this way the people who are hired to protect and serve may be invested in doing their job, rather than out boozing all night, hiring prostitutes, ...more
May 29, 2021 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I would term this work a good first draft if one wants really to know how the US Secret Service functions, or how it doesn't function well, perhaps more correctly. The "Zero Fail" title probable expresses best the agency's Herculean task of protecting the President - but in Leonnig's narrative they've not done particularly well at really coming up with an effective method for carrying out that mission. It seems it really only takes the concerted effort of one idiot to thwart all the millions tha ...more
Georgia Garrison
Secret Service in Trouble

Excellent synopsis of our Secret Service. I learned so much from this author about the Secret Service and all of it's problems, particularly with Donald Trump. It was so interesting about each and everyone of the Presidents and their families in connection with the Secret Service. Most of all realizing all that these men go through in protecting our Presidents. Hopefully they will get the funding they desperately need and are able to revitalize this system of protection
May 31, 2021 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: non-fiction
This book chronicles the Secret Service from the Kennedy years to the Jan 6th riot at the Capital. It details successes and many serious failures where individuals got thru security and attempted to get at the President. What struck me was how some of them seemed like frat boys, misogynistic, looking for hookers on foreign trips snd drinking to excess. You learn which Presidents the Secret Service agents liked, and who they loathed. Two of the Presidents’ sexual escapades caused issues for their ...more
Phil Lawless
May 31, 2021 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: non-fiction
This is a book devoted to shedding light on the history of the Secret Service, the problems it has faced, its blunders and its victories. But most of all, its decline as a viable agency in our system of government.

The main problem seems to have been in its directorship. Through various years and decades, directors seem to have been chosen mostly out of the ranks of supervisors, but at the whims of the Presidents they protect. Author Leonnig offers the book as a warning of the decline of the Secr
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Carol Duhurst Leonnig is an American investigative journalist and a longtime staff writer for The Washington Post. She was part of a team of national security reporters that won the Pulitzer Prize for Public Service in 2014 for reporting that revealed the NSA's expanded spying on Americans. She later received Pulitzers for National Reporting in 2015 and 2018. ...more

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