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The Secret Service Demystified


Secret Service agents definitely look cool,
but there are a whole lot of myths and misconceptions about the organization. From their paychecks to their official oaths,
here are the false facts about the Secret Service you probably always thought were true. If your job potentially includes taking a
bullet for someone, it seems like your pay ought to go up or down depending on how hated
or beloved the person standing next to you is. That’s not how it works, though. In fact, the paycheck of a new Secret Service
hire doesn’t even come close to the sort of danger money you’d think a person would make
in such a profession. A brand-new agent can expect to make between
$38,500 and $55,400, with the potential for a moderate increase in places where the cost
of living is higher. That’s hardly minimum wage, let alone “taking
a bullet for someone” type of money. To be fair, though, new agents work in investigations
before they’re transferred for protective detail, so those first few years don’t involve
a lot of danger unless you count the danger of an especially boring case. After that, your salary starts to go up, and
once you’re a full-performance agent, you can expect to earn between $84,000 and $106,000. While 37 agents have died in the line of duty,
some of those fatalities include natural causes, like suffering from a stroke or heart attack. And as of right now, only one agent has died
protecting the president from assassination, and that was back in 1950. So there’s real danger vs. perceived danger. In other words, while they’re definitely not
earning danger money, it’s not terrible money, either. “Hey, it’s a living!” Most Americans’ exposure to the Secret Service
is through television or other forms of media. They’re hanging out next to the president
looking cool in their black suits and dark sunglasses, ready to take that bullet if and
when it comes flying. So many people assume that that’s all they
do they stand next to the president, they offer up their vital organs to flying bits
of lead, and they look cool. Alas, that is not, in fact, the only thing
that Secret Service agents do. Sure, Secret Service agents protect the president,
but they also protect the vice president, the families of the president and vice president,
the leading candidates for the presidency and the vice presidency, visiting heads of
state, and other government officials considered high-profile. But that’s not all. Many Secret Service agents don’t protect anyone,
unless you count all those dead presidents on money as actual people. The first job of the Secret Service, and the
actual reason that it became a thing in the first place is to protect U.S. currency. The agency was founded in 1865 as a way to
combat the rampant counterfeiting of American money, and it wasn’t even until 1901 that
it took on the role of protecting the president. So an agent spends those first years investigating
things like fraud, money laundering, and cybercrime. After that’s done, they can expect to get
a protective assignment. Just look into a Secret Service agent’s eyes,
or sunglasses, and it’s obvious they’re living a life of glamour. It’s not, though. In fact, according to former agent Dan Emmett,
Secret Service agents, particularly the ones assigned to protect the president, have a
really high burnout rate. Each agent on the president’s detail has to
work two weeks on a day shift, two weeks on a midnight shift, followed by two weeks on
an evening shift. That must be great for making sure your agents
are always alert and aware of their surroundings, right? Or maybe that’s why they have to wear the
sunglasses, so no one can tell they’re nodding off on the job. So that sounds exhausting, but there’s also
the jet-setting and state visits and the many, many trips to the golf course, so that’s cool,
right? Sort of, but that’s all balanced out by hours
of mundane activities. The president can never be left alone, so
as his protector, it’s your job to stand in the same room with them while they do anything
from watching TV or using the bathroom. Sound glamorous enough for you? So are the Secret Service totally in control
of White House security? Well, sort of. As it turns out, like most of the world’s
parents, the Secret Service isn’t immune to whining. They’ve been known to make decisions that
are based less on keeping everything super secure from intruders and would-be assassins
and more on keeping themselves super secure from having to listen to everyone else complain
all the time. Do you remember that one incident in 2014
where some dude jumped the White House fence and ran right through the front door? Well, according to The Washington Post, that
incident probably wouldn’t have been quite so bad if the Secret Service hadn’t muted
an alarm box near the front entrance of the building a box that was supposed to alert
agents to the presence of an intruder. So why was the box muted? The usher’s office asked them to do it, because
the alarm boxes were noisy. Security may be less-than-rigorous as a matter
of practice in some other cases as well. For example, presidential candidates don’t
often want their Secret Service agents to look all Secret Service-y because that can
make them seem less approachable. So really, the Secret Service is expected
to provide unimpeachable security, but they’re also expected to not be too draconian, which
sometimes means making choices that take other people’s less-than-security-minded opinions
into consideration. What’s this? It’s my makeup bag
Twist we’re gonna rescue a dog from an animal testing laboratory, im sure there will be
makeup there. ahhh it’s for luck… Twist –
Tim…let her take it Most people don’t really understand those
Secret Service earpieces. They’re kind of weird, what with that 1970s
telephone cord hanging down the back of the neck, making agents look simultaneously cool
and also like they’re using some seriously super low-tech communications devices. So what’s going on with those earpieces anyway,
and why are Secret Service agents forever touching the things? Well, according to Slate, it’s actually pretty
simple. Sometimes the agents need to fiddle with their
earpieces in order to create a good seal, because a good seal is what ensures that they’ll
actually hear the person who’s trying to convey information to them. What about that curly wire, then? It’s attached to a hidden microphone, which
is sometimes placed just under the shirt sleeve. That’s why you’ll also see agents lifting
their wrists to their mouths. It might look kind of like they’re constantly
wiping ketchup off their faces, but it’s actually a form of communication. Yes, there’s a reason for all that weird fidgeting
and gesturing. It’s not just the current president the Secret
Service has to worry about, but former presidents as well. Once you’ve been at the helm of America, you
get to have Secret Service protection for life. And so does your whole extended family, right? Actually, that’s not precisely true. According to CBS, the adult children of a
U.S. president lose their Secret Service protection as soon as their parent leaves office. And until recently, former presidents only
got ten years of protection, and former vice presidents got just six months. That changed when President Obama signed an
executive order requiring the Secret Service to protect former presidents and first ladies
for life. There’s some wiggle room as far as family
members are concerned. When Bill Clinton left office, he signed an
executive order for extra protection for his daughter, Chelsea, and George W. Bush did
the same thing for his daughters. So how about the First Dog? Some people think Secret Service protection
even extends to the canine member of the presidential family, but that’s not true, though there
have been a few cases where people have spotted agents walking the president’s dog. Just about everyone likes to think that they’d
help someone who’s in danger, but there are different levels of that. We’d throw ourselves in front of a truck to
protect our kids, other relatives, and even our friends, even if we knew that the effort
would probably kill us. But would we do the same thing for a stranger? How about for someone we don’t even like? That’s why it’s kind of hard to internalize
the idea that Secret Service agents are not the president’s political allies or even his
friends. They’re supposed to remain completely apolitical,
which means they’re not allowed to support him publicly, and they’re not allowed to oppose
him publicly, either. Not only that, but Secret Service agents aren’t
even really allowed to talk to the president, or presumably anyone else they are charged
with keeping safe. As the former agent Emmett says, “How an agent deals with the president is
completely a professional relationship. It is not a friendship. An agent never initiates a conversation with
the president, other than to say, ‘Good morning, sir.’ A lot of times, the president will engage
you, and if he does, then a few exchanges back and forth, and the conversation really
should be over.” It must be the fact that “secret” is literally
part of their name, but for some reason, the whole Secret Service organization has a sort
of reputation. You don’t want to be a whistleblower in the
Secret Service, just like you don’t want to be a whistleblower in the CIA, because they
have ways of dealing with whistleblowers. You have any reason to believe that your family
is in danger Mr. Webb? ……No. Happily for freedom and democracy, none of
that is true, though this myth runs so deep that there have been some instances of would-be
whistleblowers who were reluctant to come forward because they were afraid management
either wouldn’t take them seriously or would just shut them down. That’s hardly the same thing but still, you
want a work environment where you aren’t afraid to bring up your concerns to your bosses. According to The Huffington Post, there were
several big Secret Service-related scandals during the Obama administration, including
one in which agents were out chasing prostitutes. Most of the people within the Secret Service
who helped break that story did it anonymously to journalists, rather than internally to
Secret Service management. The Washington Post, though, thinks this is
mostly just due to a breakdown in communication, a lack of structured disciplinary policies,
and perhaps a small amount of personal conflict between management and employees. It’s probably not true that whistleblowers
would be silenced or even disciplined, but the perception by itself is problematic enough. When you’re charged with something as important
as protecting the life of the most powerful person in America, you’d better be really
well-trained. You’d better make sure there’s never any breakdown
in the process and that you follow protocol to the letter. That way, you can virtually guarantee that
nothing will ever happen to the person in the Oval Office, and you can rest easy at
night. But there’s also the problem where Secret
Service agents are actually human beings, so yeah, that kind of puts a damper on the
whole perfection thing. According to NBC, there were a famously large
number of security lapses during the Obama administration, which included that mad dash
by the fence jumper, a bungled response to a shooter who managed to actually fire seven
bullets into the White house, and an incident where some random armed security guard got
into an elevator with President Obama. Those incidents actually led to the resignation
of Secret Service Director Julia Pierson, followed by a complete review of the agency
in an attempt to figure out why it was breaking down so spectacularly. I remember the Secret Service being tougher. Me too. Secret Service agents protect the president,
and they protect his family, but they’re not his employees, which means that technically
speaking, they don’t answer to him. The Secret Service is actually a part of the
US Department of Homeland Security. It wasn’t always that way, though. Because their original mission was to investigate
counterfeiting and other financial crimes, they were established as a branch of the Treasury
Department, where they remained until March 2003. After September 11th, 2001, the Secret Service’s
mission expanded to include the job of providing security at big non-political events like
the Super Bowl, or basically any place that could be considered a target for terrorists. So protecting the president is actually a
pretty small part of what they do. The Secret Service doesn’t get their orders
from the president, but they do have to take orders from the president. In fact, the president isn’t actually obligated
to follow the advice of the Secret Service. The one thing the president can’t do, though,
is refuse the protection of the Secret Service altogether. That’s mandated by a federal statute. Swearing an oath to die in the line of duty
is hardly a new idea. That’s basically the job description for any
member of the military, U.S. or otherwise. Throughout the ages, people have laid down
their lives to protect their king, their country, or even their employer. But technically speaking, no Secret Service
agent has to swear to take a bullet or anything for the president. There’s actually no oath about dying for the
commander-in-chief. In fact, at least one Secret Service agent
recently made news for swearing exactly the opposite. Kerry O’Grady, a senior Secret Service agent,
evidently told friends and colleagues that she’d refuse take a bullet for Donald Trump,
who at that point had yet to become the president-elect. So it may not be an oath you have to take
or anything, but you’re definitely not allowed to actually say out loud that you don’t plan
to ever take a bullet for the president. O’Grady ended up resigning over her comments,
though she did get to keep her federal pension. Check out one of our newest videos right here! Plus, even more Grunge videos about your favorite
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