Sunday, October 18, 2009

An Increased Work Load

It came as no surprise to me that the Secret Service has its hands full. I fully expected that, and not just because a black man was elected president. I suspect that any Democrat elected to the White House would have faced an increase in threats, but it's clear that Barack Obama as the first black president has really shaken more than a few cages. This article in the Boston Globe confirms that assessment and provided me with some information I didn't know about the Secret Service.

The unprecedented number of death threats against President Obama, a rise in racist hate groups, and a new wave of antigovernment fervor threaten to overwhelm the US Secret Service, according to government officials and reports, raising new questions about the 144-year-old agency’s overall mission.

The Secret Service is tracking a far broader range of possible threats to the nation’s leaders, the officials said, even as it also investigates financial crimes such as counterfeiting as part of its original mandate.

The new demands are leading some officials, both inside and outside the agency, to raise the possibility of the service curtailing or dropping its role in fighting financial crime to focus more on protecting leaders and their families from assassination attempts and thwarting terrorist plots aimed at high-profile events.

I did not know that the Secret Service was charged with the task of financial crime investigation, primarily counterfeiting, although I did know that it was responsible for the security of visiting foreign dignitaries and for certain political events (e.g., national political conventions).

What really interested me, however, was the fact that the Globe, which I consider a really fine newspaper, if not a national newspaper, thought fit to publish the article and to emphasize the increasing threat of domestic terrorists.

As I mentioned yesterday and last Sunday, the extremist militias are once again on the rise, aided and abetted by members of the GOP, hate-talk media buffoons, and even the "reputable" press. They are becoming bolder because no one has effectively called them out. When the Department of Homeland Security issued its report on the danger of such groups, the GOP got its collective knickers in a twist and screamed in outrage. DHS promptly apologized and withdrew the report.

As a result, the Secret Service is now working double time to keep up with the problem, and doing it with inadequate funding for such things as a decent computer system.

The Service currently protects 32 people - 24 full time and eight part time. It also coordinates security at high-profile events, such as meetings of world leaders and political party conventions. Between Oct. 1, 2008, and Sept. 30, the Secret Service said it protected 116 heads of state and 58 spouses.

“The service’s protection mission has increased and become more urgent, due to the increase in terrorist threats and expanded arsenal of weapons that terrorists could use in an assassination attempt or attacks on facilities,’’ according to the congressional report.

Now, the thrust of the Globe article was the decision facing Congress as to whether it will be necessary to split off the Secret Service's other tasks and to transfer those duties to the Treasury Department, but it did a very creditable job in explaining why the security detail had become so very important right now. It even referred to this Southern Poverty Law Center report in great detail (but didn't link to it...which is one thing that disappointed me in the article, especially since I read the electronic version where it would have been easy to insert the link).

At some point, and hopefully very soon, something concrete has to be done with respect to the threat that these groups pose. Freedom of Speech (while not absolute) is one thing. Packing guns to a presidential speech and to congressional town hall meetings is something else, as are training exercises with more deadly weapons. Furthermore, encouraging and inciting violence is not protected speech, something that Glen Beck, Rush Limbaugh, and Lou Dobbs have to learn.

The Boston Globe did its job today. For that I am grateful.

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

Didn't you watch the Wild Wild West when you were a kid?? I'm shocked at your ignorance! *grin*

12:50 PM  

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