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The Confederate Lawyer
January 29, 2015

The Secret Service
by Charles G. Mills
fitzgerald griffin foundation

GLEN COVE, NY  — The Secret Service is in the process of an intensive review. What is needed is a comprehensive refinement of the mission and a complete reorganization. What is likely is a few new faces and a slightly modified organizational chart. For example, four key executives have recently been reassigned — not fired, simply reposted.

The U. S. Congress created the Secret Service in 1865 to combat counterfeiting. During the Lincoln Administration, the federal government had financed the war against the Confederate States by expanding the paper money supply and federal bonded debt. This expansion led to a wave of counterfeiting. The only federal law enforcement officers were the United States Marshals, but the individual marshals did not have nationwide jurisdiction and were not an investigative body. The Secret Service was given this responsibility.

 

It simply makes no sense to split the investigation of domestic financial crimes between the FBI and the Secret Service; this function should be consolidated in the FBI.

 

After the assassinations of Presidents Garfield and McKinley, the protection of the President was assigned to the Secret Service, the only nationwide federal law enforcement agency at the time. Today, the Secret Service still holds the dual role of protecting the President and investigating counterfeiting.

The Secret Service initially was part of the Department of the Treasury (DOT); in 1908, the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) was created within the Department of Justice. In the 1920s, the FBI evolved to become the primary national law enforcement agency. The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) was formed is 2002, and the Secret Service was transferred from the DOT to the DHS the following year.

Today, more than a dozen agencies provide American intelligence and counterintelligence services, including the FBI, with the Central Intelligence Agency and the Director of National Intelligence as leader. The exact number of intelligence agencies is not public. The Secret Service has not played a role as an intelligence service in nearly a century.

Congress has its own security forces, including the Capitol Hill Police and the offices of the sergeants at arms of the two houses. The United States Marshals work for the Judicial branch. These two branches work smoothly, but law enforcement in the enormous executive branch looks like it was designed by Rube Goldberg.

During Hillary Clinton’s tenure as Secretary of State, the Bureau of Diplomatic Security and the Secret Service had to decide how to divide her protection, since she was both a diplomat and the wife of a former President.

The Secret Service protects the President, former presidents, the Vice-President, visiting heads of state, and their families, and others. The Secret Service still investigates counterfeiting and other crimes against the banking system and money supply; these are artificial carve-outs from the investigative role of the FBI.

 

The Bureau of Diplomatic Security protects ambassadors and other people. The United States Postal Service has its own police force, as do the IRS and many other federal agencies.

 

…the commitment of the Secret Service agents to put the President’s life ahead of their own is the Service’s strongest point.

The Bureau of Diplomatic Security protects ambassadors and other people. The United States Postal Service has its own police force, as do the IRS and many other federal agencies.

Some of this complexity is probably a good thing; if it is not broken, we do not want to fix it.

The dual role of the Secret Service, however, stopped making sense over 90 years ago when the FBI matured, or at the very least when the Secret Service was moved out of the DOT. It simply makes no sense to split the investigation of domestic financial crimes between the FBI and the Secret Service; this function should be consolidated in the FBI.

To fulfill its primary role of protecting the President and government leaders, the Secret Service has both uniformed and plainclothes branches. The idea of a uniformed Secret Service makes about as much sense as a secret policemen’s ball, but this nomenclature has tradition behind it and merits preservation. President Nixon wanted the uniformed branch to take on some ceremonial duties, but he failed make this common sense idea permanent.

There is no good reason why the Secret Service should protect foreign presidents and kings; the Bureau of Diplomatic Security should fulfill this role. If the Bureau of Diplomatic Security could take on this function, the Secret Service would be able to concentrate on protecting the President.

Protecting the President does not mean running the country like dictators, closing streets and keeping people imprisoned in their own homes for hours. Certainly with so many modern weapons, we cannot have presidents traveling from Washington, D.C., to New York with only one bodyguard, like Theodore Roosevelt did. But Harry Truman used to walk from the White House to the Marine Corps barracks with only two Secret Service agents. Nixon campaigned in unscreened crowds.

We do not want the President to act too much like a king, but the commitment of the Secret Service agents to put the President’s life ahead of their own is the Service’s strongest point.

The Secret Service has failed in recent months to protect the White House and to keep armed strangers out of the President’s elevator. Snipers on roofs, diverting avenues, devices that pop up out of the street, and hours’ long freeze zones are of no use if the President is accidently exposed to being shot at close range with a 9 mm pistol.

The Secret Service needs to downsize and refocus on its most important mission, respect our citizens, and refrain from reducing the nation’s capital to a police state. Investigating crime belongs with the FBI, and protecting foreign leaders belongs to the Bureau of Diplomatic Security. The greatest danger to the President remains a crazy man with a revolver or a World War II rifle. Only heroes can provide protection from that — heroes like the Secret Service used to breed.

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The Confederate Lawyer column is copyright © 2015 by Charles G. Mills and the Fitzgerald Griffin Foundation, www.fgfBooks.com. All rights reserved.

This column may be forwarded, posted, or published if credit is given to Charles Mills and fgfBooks.com.

Charles G. Mills is the Judge Advocate or general counsel for the New York State American Legion. He has forty years of experience in many trial and appellate courts and has published several articles about the law.

See his biographical sketch and additional columns here.

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