“WORKING THE ROPE” IS THE MOST STRESSFUL PART OF THE JOB
According to former Secret Service agent Tim Wood, “that’s where agents earn their money”. Nothing is more stressful than impromptu presidential greetings with citizens because “you have no idea what an uncontrolled crowd might do”. To minimize threats, agents are constantly scanning for signs of suspicious activity such as hands stuffed in pockets.
ABRAHAM LINCOLN APPROVED THE FORMATION OF THE SECRET SERVICE THE DAY HE WAS KILLED
On the day he was shot by John Wilkes Booth, President Lincoln approved the formation of the U.S. Secret Service. Although, at the time it was created to combat the counterfeiting of U.S. currency, which was a sizable problem. After the assassination of President William McKinley in 1901, their duties were extended to protect the president.
THEY TRACK EVERY THREAT
It’s not a myth. The Secret Service checks all electronic and paper letters that contain any threats. Even jocular. They also work with ink manufacturers to maintain a database of distinctive “tags” in the ink that can narrow down where it came from.
THE PRESIDENTIAL STATE CAR IS SOMETHING OUT OF A BOND MOVIE
The limousine is flat-tire-proof, bulletproof, and driven by agents with extensive experience in defensive driving. Wood says that agents are even trained to perform a 180-degree turn in the event of a road block or explosion. In other words, you’re trained to be a total badass.
THEY TEND TO PICK UP THE PRESIDENT’S HOBBIES
Secret Service agents are essentially forced to learn new hobbies since the president is never without an escort. Wood says he didn’t have any experience riding horses when he accompanied Bill Clinton for rides during his two terms. “Fortunately, Clinton was not a master horseman like Reagan, so it was just a simple trail ride,” he says. But Clinton was a well-conditioned jogger, which forced agents into great shape just so they could keep up with him; “You’re doing your job while running for five miles.”
THEIR TRAINING INCLUDES BEING SHOT WITH FAKE BULLETS
Agents undergo regular and rigorous scenario training, with one agent acting as the president while other agents try to navigate threats. To make the simulation effective, Wood says that the training uses non-lethal “marking rounds,” or plastic bullets that leave a colored trace and a superficial sting. “Instead of a blank going off, you’d know if you’ve been hit or where you hit your target.”
ONLY ONE AGENT HAS BEEN KILLED IN THE LINE OF DUTY
It’s a Hollywood myth that Secret Service agents take an oath swearing to lay down their lives for the President. If an agent sacrifices their life for the President, they do so voluntarily.
Agent Leslie Coffelt died protecting President Harry Truman in 1950 when two Puerto Rican nationalists stormed a house Truman was living in while the White House underwent renovations. In their attempt to assassinate the President, they shot Coffelt three times. Before he died from his injuries, Coffelt returned fire, shooting one would-be assassin in the head.
THE SECRET SERVICE HAS NEVER HAD A TRAITOR
Although the FBI, CIA, and NSA have all been infiltrated by foreign spies, the Secret Service has never discovered a spy or traitor in its ranks.
THEY ALWAYS TRAVEL WITH BAGS OF THE PRESIDENT’S BLOOD
Co-author of Standing Next to History, Jeffrey Robinson explained that they always travel with bags of blood in the president’s motorcade in the event a transfusion is needed. In addition, every agent assigned to the Presidential Protection Division (PPD) is trained in “10-minute medicine” so they can do everything possible to keep the President alive until he can receive medical attention.
This training once helped save Reagan’s life after an assassination attempt in 1981. He was thought to only have a minor rib injury and going to be taken back to the White House (considered the safest place in the capital). But, in the limo, Agent Jerry Parr noticed frothy red blood coming from his mouth, which was a sign of bleeding from the lungs and redirected them to the hospital where Reagan was rushed to surgery, and later able to make a full recovery.
THERE ARE MORE OF THEM THAN WE THINK
Being such an elite unit, you might think there aren’t too many agents, when really the Secret Service employs approximately 6,500 people. 3,200 are special agents, 1,300 are Uniformed Division officers, and the other 2,000 are technical or professional support.
THE PRESIDENT’S FOOD IS UNDER CONSTANT SURVEILLANCE
“If you send the president a Christmas ham, it’ll never get to him,” says Robinson. Every bite of food the President eats is prepared under the watchful eye of the Secret Service, who makes sure White House chefs aren’t flavoring it with arsenic. While traveling, Navy stewards come along to prepare food. And when you see photo-ops of the President at a local diner, it’s not likely he ate that food.
Surprisingly, he can still enjoy Domino’s like the rest of us. “If the president wants a pizza, they’ll have it delivered to the Naval Observatory or another address nearby,” Robinson says. “Since the [pizzeria] doesn’t know who it’s for, it reduces the danger.”