Like most curious Americans, momlogic had many questions about what
life in the White House will be like for the Obamas with that huge
Secret Service detail. We did some research, spoke to a few insiders ... and here's what we found out.
According to the their website, the Secret Service is authorized by law to protect:
- The President, the Vice President, other individuals next in order of succession to the office of the President (Speaker of the House, other high-ranking members of Congress), the President-elect and Vice President-elect and their immediate families.
- Former Presidents and their spouses for their lifetimes, except when the spouse remarries. In 1997, however, new Congressional legislation went into effect, limiting Secret Service protection to former Presidents for a period of not more than 10 years from the date the former President leaves office. George W. Bush will be the first President who is not protected for life.
- Children of former Presidents until age 16.
- Visiting heads of foreign states or governments and their spouses traveling with them, other distinguished foreign visitors to the United States and official representatives of the United States performing special missions abroad.
- Major Presidential and Vice Presidential candidates and their spouses within 120 days of a general presidential election.
- Other individuals as designated per Executive Order of the President.
- National special security events, when designated as such by the Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security.
We asked Secret Service Assistant Special Agent In Charge Mark Hughes about some of the things we couldn't find on the website. He couldn't answer questions like "Do the agents join the First Kids when they are old enough to date?" and "Are the agents allowed to say 'No' if the President asks them to play cards?" due to security reasons, but here's what he was able to answer.
momlogic: How does the Secret Service come up with the nicknames and what's the point if they are made public?
Agent Hughes: The military comes up the names. Since the digital age kicked in, there's no secret clearance for the nicknames. It's more of a tradition. They are used daily but not to their faces. The family is addressed by title and name.
momlogic: Are past Presidents protected for 10 years after they leave office or for life?
Agent Hughes: President Bush will be the first president not protected for life because the law changed. He will be protected for the next 10 years and the rest is based on intelligence.
momlogic: Who made the decision to have Barack Obama detailed earlier than any other candidate?
Agent Hughes: This would have been determined through Congress and then it would have become an executive order that President Bush would have had to authorize.
momlogic: Are Presidents aware of threats and any incidents that they may have been protected from?
Agent Hughes: They are usually briefed.
momlogic: If an agent dies in the line of fire, how is their family compensated?
Agent Hughes: They get the regular government insurance policy. There is no special compensation.
We also spoke to John G. Peters, former member of the Secret Service Defensive Tactics Advisory Board, who told us that it is very difficult to lead a spontaneous life if you are being protected by the Secret Service. He explained that of course things come up and agents are trained to deal with them, but it's not easy. He said that Bill Clinton used to drive everyone crazy because he would make requests like stopping the motorcade for fast food. He added that he imagines as a parent, having your kids under 24-hour protection would be both a blessing and a curse.
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