A recent Boston Globe article stated that an unprecedented number of death threats against President Obama, an increase in racist hate groups, and more antigovernment passion have put much pressure on the US Secret Service. On the other hand, Secret Service spokesman Ed Donovan said there hasn't been an unusually large number of death threats against the president.
"I don't know where they're getting their numbers," Donovan said. "We don't put out numbers and we don't discuss the scope of threats, typically. What we are seeing is that there was certainly a rise in the number of threats during the campaign and immediately after the inauguration, but since that time the number of threats is within the range of [the most] recent two presidents" during the same amount of time after taking office." The Globe article stated that it had obtained a report not yet released publicly by the Congressional Research Service on threats to Obama's life.
The article indicated that Secret Service agents are so overwhelmed with protecting the nation's leaders that they must reevaluate how to split time between guarding leaders (and thwarting terrorist plots) and investigating financial crimes.
Donovan said there is no reason to question the Secret Service's dual missions. "We feel we have a very strong history and a very strong track record (in our dual mission). For instance, in 2008 when we had the longest campaign and most expensive campaign in history and most historic campaign in history, we were able to set a record for our agency in that we received $141 million in asset forfeiture." Secret Service agents also investigated the two biggest data breaches in history, and "that indicates that we're successfully completing our dual mission," Donovan said.
The Secret Service's budget totals about $1.4 billion per year, and Congress recently authorized the agency to get $20 million in 2010 and $20 million in 2011 to investigate mortgage fraud, Donovan said. "Again, I think that indicates that they have confidence in our investigative abilities," he said.
Secret Service agents guard presidents, vice presidents, their immediate families, former presidents and vice presidents, visiting foreign heads of state and anyone the president designates to be protected.
The Globe article fails to highlight the Secret Service's strong points, Donovan said: "It's discouraging to our work force to come off a campaign year where we accomplished so much in the presidential campaign and national special security events that we protected, the largest inauguration, and not one arrest at the largest inauguration in history ... with all those criminal investigation successes that I described to you ... and yet we still have people in the media or wherever questioning whether we can complete our dual mission. We have an incredible track record of doing that."
Reining in threats from e-mail and social networking sites is just one duty of the Secret Service. "We don't discount anything," Donovan said. Two days before Obama appeared at a San Francisco fundraiser, a 59-year-old Northern California man was indicted on charges of sending a racist, curse-filled e-mail in which he threatened to kill Obama and his family. Also, a person posted a poll on Facebook asking whether people wanted Obama killed. In addition, a transcript from CNN back in August also discussed threats against Obama. Rick Sanchez, CNN anchor, talked about a man who said on camera that he was prepared to use forceful resistance against the Obama administration.
Sanchez also showed clips of Faithful Word Baptist Church Pastor Steven Anderson talking in the pulpit the day before the man, a churchgoer, threatened the president's administration.
Clips included Anderson saying, "Why should Barack Obama die like the untimely birth of a woman? Why should his children be fatherless and his wife a widow, as we read in this passage? Well, I will tell you why. Because, since Barack Obama thinks it is OK to use a salty solution, right, to abort the unborn, because that's how abortions are done, my friend, using salt ... and I would like to see Barack Obama melt like a snail tonight."
Mary Susan Littlepage is an intern at Truthout.