Reporter gets deep look inside the Secret Service
The Atlantic's Marc Ambinder is out with a deep, detailed profile of the U.S. Secret Service, in what he calls the first opportunity a reporter has ever had "to see the process from the inside in a real-world, real-time situation."
Ambinder shadowed agency operations over the course of September's United Nations General Assembly meetings, an annual gathering that draws hundreds of officials to New York City -- officials who all require security protection and careful coordination of their travel and lodging arrangements.
A few interesting anecdotes:
-- The CIA has asked the Secret Service on at least two occasions in the last 10 years to help develop intelligence on a visiting foreign leader. The service refused both times. The reason? "Once you lose the confidence of those individuals you protect, once they don't want you near them -- and many of them already think we're spying on them anyway -- it would never be a workable situation," a former S.S. director said.
-- Active bodyguard duty accounts for just a fraction of an agent's work. "They are also, as the situation demands, hotel bookers, personal schedulers, and protocol experts." The agency serves as an elite travel agency, maintaining relationships with big hotels around the world and negotiating rates throughout the year. "Large events such as the General Assembly pose particular hurdles, as many of the better hotels sell out years in advance."
-- The agency fiercely guards its anti-counterfeiting responsibilities. "We can't have agents standing post all year," according to a deputy special agent. "The investigations are what keep the agents' minds sharp, which reinforces their effectiveness on protective details. The best protective agents are often the smartest ones, because they know how to read people. That comes from investigations."
-- The Secret Service wasn't happy about being merged into the new Department of Homeland Security after the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks and tension is still evident. But the integration has also helped: It can borrow personnel from other DHS agencies for big national security events and is working with other agencies on explosive-detection technology.
| February 8, 2011; 1:44 PM ET
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