Zero Fail - Carol Leonnig

Zero Fail

By Carol Leonnig

  • Release Date: 2021-05-18
  • Genre: Political Science
Score: 4
From 362 Ratings


NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER • “This is one of those books that will go down as the seminal work—the determinative work—in this field. . . . Terrifying.”—Rachel Maddow

The first definitive account of the rise and fall of the Secret Service, from the Kennedy assassination to the alarming mismanagement of the Obama and Trump years, right up to the insurrection at the Capitol on January 6—by the Pulitzer Prize winner and #1 New York Times bestselling co-author of A Very Stable Genius and I Alone Can Fix It


Carol Leonnig has been reporting on the Secret Service for The Washington Post for most of the last decade, bringing to light the secrets, scandals, and shortcomings that plague the agency today—from a toxic work culture to dangerously outdated equipment to the deep resentment within the ranks at key agency leaders, who put protecting the agency’s once-hallowed image before fixing its flaws. But the Secret Service wasn’t always so troubled.

The Secret Service was born in 1865, in the wake of the assassination of Abraham Lincoln, but its story begins in earnest in 1963, with the death of John F. Kennedy. Shocked into reform by its failure to protect the president on that fateful day in Dallas, this once-sleepy agency was radically transformed into an elite, highly trained unit that would redeem itself several times, most famously in 1981 by thwarting an assassination attempt against Ronald Reagan. But this reputation for courage and excellence would not last forever. By Barack Obama’s presidency, the once-proud Secret Service was running on fumes and beset by mistakes and alarming lapses in judgment: break-ins at the White House, an armed gunman firing into the windows of the residence while confused agents stood by, and a massive prostitution scandal among agents in Cartagena, to name just a few. With Donald Trump’s arrival, a series of promised reforms were cast aside, as a president disdainful of public service instead abused the Secret Service to rack up political and personal gains.

To explore these problems in the ranks, Leonnig interviewed dozens of current and former agents, government officials, and whistleblowers who put their jobs on the line to speak out about a hobbled agency that’s in desperate need of reform. “I will be forever grateful to them for risking their careers,” she writes, “not because they wanted to share tantalizing gossip about presidents and their families, but because they know that the Service is broken and needs fixing. By telling their story, they hope to revive the Service they love.”


  • Left to wonder what’s accurate

    By dmwillau
    Read the epilogue first and it destroys credibility. I was hoping for journalist integrity,but ended up with more political bias.
  • An incredible read.

    By Zanla Warrior
    This book is absolutely engrossing and an incredible page turner. It should be required reading for anyone studying for an MPA or attending federal mid-level and senior leadership training courses. It depicts in great detail failures in leadership among the services top brass and instances when directors of the USSS demonstrated astounding deficits in moral courage. Finally, the book provided loads of material outlining the consequences of an agency failing to evolve and not embracing any sort of strategic vision. The many special agents and uniformed division officers who proudly serve and are willing to step into the line of fire deserve no less than senior leadership that is principled, and who not only manage crisis situations but also plan for the future and demand the resources needed for their very critical mission.
  • A Disturbing Book! Couldn’t Put It Down

    Since the age of nine I’ve been absolutely fascinated by the United States Secret Service and all that it stands for. This book was very disturbing to read (I was absolutely shocked to learn that the brother of Dan Bongino was allegedly involved in the 2012 prostitution scandal in Colombia) but it does not change my admiration and respect for all of those who are members of this heroic force. Highly recommend this book! Carol Leonnig did a fantastic job.
  • Fascinating!

    By shannon-66
    A fascinating look into our nations history through the eyes and ears of the secret service. So much of this book leaves the reader completely enlightened... I found myself intrigued, fascinated, perplexed, amazed, and appalled at various points. This is a story that every American should have more clear insight into; my eyes are forever opened!
  • Awesome

    By Dccyclist222
    I expected an exciting book about assassination attempts but instead I got even more. The best part was the fallout from sex scandals.
  • Zero Fail

    By Chicken sister
    Excellent book. Couldn’t put it down.