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Is the Secret Service at work?
August 13, 2009 8:39 PM   Subscribe

Does the Secret Service investigate the vocal and written threats to President Obama that some people have been making at recent town hall meetings?

Does the Secret Service investigate the vocal and written threats to President Obama that some people have been making at recent town hall meetings? I'm talking about events where Obama hasn't appeared but some shouters and sign-writers are clearly threatening the president.
Also, what about that guy outside a town hall meeting with a gun strapped to his leg? I know, I know...Americans have a right to arm bears and bear arms, but this looked scary. (PS--I live in Texas, home of "you must carry a gun or you're a lefty pinko wimp.")
posted by Smalltown Girl to Law & Government (14 answers total)
 
yes.
posted by advil at 8:42 PM on August 13, 2009


Generally speaking, the Secret Service doesn't talk about what it does, or who it investigates or doesn't investigate.

This is one of those situations where, those who know won't talk. Those who talk don't know.
posted by Chocolate Pickle at 8:45 PM on August 13, 2009 [1 favorite]


This is one of those situations where, those who know won't talk. Those who talk don't know.

This sounds good, but in reality, protecting the President is in the SS charter, including "protective research":
Protective research is an integral component of all security operations. Agents and specialists assigned to conduct protective research evaluate information received from law enforcement, intelligence agencies and a variety of other sources regarding individuals or groups who may pose a threat to Secret Service protectees. These agents review questionable letters and e-mails received at the White House and maintain a 24-hour operation to coordinate protection-related information.

posted by Blazecock Pileon at 9:01 PM on August 13, 2009 [3 favorites]


At least one yes: Associated Press reports that the "Secret Service is investigating a man who authorities said held a sign reading "Death to Obama" outside a town hall meeting on health-care reform in western Maryland." Local Hagerstown police arrested him and turned him over to the Secret Service.
posted by LobsterMitten at 9:23 PM on August 13, 2009 [1 favorite]


The Service catergorizes, prioritizes & handles threats according to criteria like capability, specificity & immediacy. They have a flowchart-like set of procedures to guide them in sorting through them all, so they can pick out the ones that pose the greatest risk to the people being protected. I can guarantee, if you've heard of a threat through the media they've already passed it through their filters & decided how serious it is.
posted by scalefree at 9:55 PM on August 13, 2009


Yes.

This is also the case in Australia and presumably most other OECD states.

If you make a threat against a politician and presumably quite a few other senior officials it gets logged at least. I've spoken to people who had dealings with these files in Australia.

On a net community site I used to hang out on someone made a nasty threat to a politician. The FBI came round and knocked on his door. This may be rare or extremely rare, but the long and the short of it is DO NOT THREATEN politicians. When you think about it in the context of the US and your gun laws it absolutely makes sense.

Look at wikipedia's page on presidential assassination attempts and plots. Not listed there was the poor plot on Obama's life before he became president.
posted by sien at 10:01 PM on August 13, 2009


BP, I think the point is that the Secret Service doesn't want there to be a publicly-understood bright line regarding what will get you investigated and what will not. Certainly, they investigate people who mail death threats to the White House. Certainly, they don't investigate people who attend political protests against the policies of the current administration. But when it comes to the areas in between, there's a grey area and they want it to be grey, to keep the truly dangerous worried about them.
posted by Chocolate Pickle at 11:20 PM on August 13, 2009 [1 favorite]


Every time the President would come to town in Oregon, there would be an inevitable call to our clinic asking about the status of a paranoid-schizophrenic ex-client. He still left weekly rants on our answering machine, so we could give a guess.

I am not sure what he did to get on the radar though.
posted by psycho-alchemy at 12:55 AM on August 14, 2009 [1 favorite]


what about that guy outside a town hall meeting with a gun strapped to his leg?

Just another right wing nutball.

Arizona is an open carry state so you can expect these kinds of . . . displays.
posted by @troy at 4:04 AM on August 14, 2009


I used to go to church with a SS employee (I don't remember his actual title) who worked the presidential protective detail for Regan (not on duty when he was shot). He mentioned that there is a "nut list" that they check in on when the president comes to town. So even if the people above don't get arrested, it's possible that they get looked after to make sure they're harmless and haven't been practicing with a light fifty.
posted by a robot made out of meat at 5:00 AM on August 14, 2009


Just as a data point, the father of a co-worker got a call from someone doing a survey for the RNC during the '04 election, during the course of which said father told they guy doing the survey "Sometimes I think this country would be better off if Bush and Cheney were dead."

He was visited by the Secret Service the next day.
posted by anastasiav at 5:43 AM on August 14, 2009 [3 favorites]


Chocolate Pickle said: Certainly, they don't investigate people who attend political protests against the policies of the current administration.

No, they don't. That is the FBI's responsibility.
posted by JJ86 at 6:07 AM on August 14, 2009


Back when Obama started running for the office, it occurred to me that his winning the Presidency had to rank up there as one of the biggest headaches the SS would ever experience, even if the only threat was going to come from the traditional racists.

This new development, though...I can't even begin to imagine what's really going on inside the SS, just trying to cope.
posted by Thorzdad at 6:17 AM on August 14, 2009


He mentioned that there is a "nut list" that they check in on when the president comes to town.

There's actually several of them. The A list is the top threats, motivated & capable. The Bs are capable but not motivated & the Cs are motivated but not capable (or the other way around, I forget). The D list is for the crazies; unpredictable is the worst thing in the world from an intelligence perspective. I happen to know somebody who at least used to be on the D list; believed he had a chip implanted in his head during a trip to Mexico, wrote rambling letters to the President about it, etc. He was also a world-class hacker, wrote a tutorial on hacking Federal Reserve data terminals, that sort of thing. Colorful guy.
posted by scalefree at 8:03 AM on August 14, 2009


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