The First Security

Recently, news of the failures of the Secret Service has proliferated. Incidents such as Omar Gonzales’ invasion of the White House have disillusioned the public about the Secret Service and its capabilities. However, these occurrences aren’t spontaneous, they’ve been building up behind the scenes for years, even decades for the matter. In order to look further into the situation, let’s take a glimpse at the history of the secret service.

The Secret Service was created in 1865 to, intriguingly, prevent counterfeit currency, which ran rampant in the years following the Civil War. However, after the assassinations of Presidents Lincoln and McKinley, Congress officially gave the agency the mandate to protect the president. At this time, the Secret Service was a division under the Department of the Treasury, and it stayed such until 2003, when President George W. Bush transferred it to the newly created Department of Homeland Security (another one of his successes). This caused a complete overhaul from a century of working with the Treasury, leaving the agency in a faltering state.

The most recent close call was over 30 years ago, when President Reagan survived solely because of the agility of the Secret Service. Although its actions were commendable, its agents were reminded of how important their presence is to the president’s life. Since those years, however, agents have retired and newer, less traumatically experienced agents have replaced them, allowing for the service as a whole to loosen its grip, especially when it comes to public appearances.

President Reagan being pushed into his car in the nick of time.
President Reagan being pushed into his car in the nick of time.

This leads me to my final point: The Secret Service must protect the president whether or not he is willing, because this order is issued by Congress. Incidents threatening the president’s security take place more often that not because of the dearth of simple communication and coordination. Moreover, the Secret Service has lately been at the President’s command when it comes to protection, which means taking actions such as turning off alarms simply because they “cause him trouble.” After a plethora of Hollywood movies portraying the Secret Service as extremely overprotective, it’s somewhat ironic to be telling them that it’s better to be safe than sorry.


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