Not many jobs require tighter security than the president of the United States. And those tasks ensuring the safety of the nation’s chief executive must be available for absolutely anything. Threats to the president are unpredictable. But through the years, the Secret Service has come up with insane tricks when it comes to threat detection, security, and emergency response.
Here is a list of ten secret service tactics that will blow your mind that you probably didn’t know the secret service employees to keep those who lead our country safe and sound:
# 1. Any immediate threat to the president’s safety is a priority. The presidential limousine, “The Beast,” is always accompanied by a group of vehicles. One of which is a discrete black van that president carries the Counter Assault Team or CAT.
In the event of an attack, the president’s protective detail – the agents who accompany him directly will deliver him to safety, and the counter-sniper unit scans the area for hidden threats.
The CAT will then directly engage the threat with a barrage of suppressive fire.
Getting assigned to the counter-assault team is a near-impossible feat. Only 10% of those that undergo the strict application process are accepted. CAT agents are strong, swift, and trained in heavy weaponry under conditions designed to throw off their aim. Such measures are taken to give the president a peace of mind.
#2. “The Beast” is a heavily-modified Cadillac limousine, with the keyword being heavy. It weighs over seven tons of armor, up to eight inches thick enough to stop an explosive device or high caliber gunfire.
However, Secret Service agents must be alert and ready for every possible scenario. If the president is injured, there is no need to wait to get to the hospital for treatment. That’s because of a unique feature in the limousine’s trunk. It has a blood bank with plasma matching the president’s type.
Agents are knowledgeable about emergency medical procedures with a focus on 10-minute medicine that can keep the president alive and to get to a hospital, one of which is always close by whenever the president’s travel route is planned. This quick medical intervention saved the life of ex-president Reagan when he was shot in the chest in 1981.
#3. Security agents also spend a great deal of time assessing potential threats, which can be challenging in a country that upholds freedom of speech. Even mere jokes about attempts on the president’s life must be investigated.
If there is the smallest indication that the comment is serious, the Secret Service agents engage in a protocol called “protective intelligence.” Its purpose is to gather information about the source of the potential threat, like researching their online history, interviewing their circle of friends and family, looking into affiliations with sketchy organizations and more.
If an actual threat is found, agents can choose to proceed in three ways: issue a warning, commit the offender for a psychological evaluation, or charged them with a Class-E felony, with a sentence of up to three years imprisonment.
#4. Rumors say that the president has an official food taster. But former White House Executive Chef Walter Scheib noted that this is not actually the case. Speaking with the Washingtonian, James says that only White House kitchen staff who have clearance or permits are allowed to have access to the president’s food while on White House vicinity. Even selling anything to the president needs to be screened in some way by the Secret Service.
Stewardship of the president’s food changes depending on his route. The Navy assigns a personal chef with the president on long trips; however, aboard, Air Force One and airport chef take over. It gets a little more complicated on trips to countries abroad, and for security reasons, Scheib couldn’t provide more information. But he did mention that there might be instances in which Secret Service agents are required to taste the food first to make sure that no dangerous surprises are stowed away.
#5. Different modern handwriting analysis techniques are now available to investigators nowadays. Writing an anonymous letter to the president isn’t the most excellent idea, but it still occurs. The Secret Service and the FBI have teamed up to create a one-of-a-kind ink library that can provide an incredible amount of details about highly suspicious and unknown documents. It contains samples of every ink ever produced dating back to the 1920s.
Falsified documents from accounting ledgers to autographed baseballs have been busted by the library using a triple-stage investigative process that can identify pretty much any ink on any material that anyone can ever produce. The library is in a constant process of refining and improving its techniques and also looking to go all-digital in the near future.
#6. The Beast is one in a fleet of a dozen highly modified vehicles which comprises the president’s motor pool. It’s never without its own assigned agent and specialized mechanic who happens to be heavily armed, as well.
Up until recently, these limos would be bought off the lot and then modified with aftermarket products; however, the incredible stress placed on vehicles intended for luxury and pleasure caused them to break down. That is why since the presidency of George W. Bush, the presidential vehicles have instead been manufactured from the ground up. In addition to the extra armor and security features, these limos are equipped with fire suppression systems, encrypted satellite phones, night vision cameras, and Kevlar-reinforced tires.
Security agents assigned to drive these vehicles must undergo intensive training and defensive driving, including high-speed precision driving, cornering, and evasive maneuvers. The Secret Service team learned many vital lessons from the assassination of President Kennedy in 1960; as a result, a presidential motorcade today can now be considered one of the most secure places to be.
#7. Some presidential outings may seem to occur on the fly, but that’s almost never the case.
Wherever the president goes, an advanced team of Secret Service agents goes out first to check the location. They’ll need to be thoroughly familiar with all entrances, exits, bathrooms, and closets of a building; as well as the general layout of an outdoor setting.
Further, whenever the president travels to another state, the Secret Service team consults all mental health institutions in the area and looks up any patients that were recently released – a lesson also learned from the assassination attempt on President Reagan.
#8. Systema is a Russian martial art that has begun to gain a following among police militaries and the Secret Service. Its anything-goes style of combat is suited to extreme situations such as taking on multiple-armed attackers. Systema focuses on controlling the six body levers – elbows, neck, knees, waist, ankles, and shoulders – through pressure points and strikes.
Systema expert Martin Wheeler detailed some of the techniques favored by the Secret Service and a Discovery Channel special. These maneuvers focused on meeting an opponent with a firearm and directing the weapon’s line of fire away from a target.
#9. Secret Service agents must continuously be on the lookout when dealing with large crowds. You may think that they’re merely scanning the crowd for dangerous-looking characters. But that’s a bit of an oversimplification.
Nearly any severe threat to the president is going to involve a firearm of some sort, and agents are specifically trained to spot the many telltale signs that someone might be carrying a gun.
First, an agent can almost instantly tell if a suspect is left or right-handed, based on the presence of jewelry or simple actions such as lighting a cigarette. Once that dominant side is recognized, they can watch for a security-feel. A subconscious check characteristic of shooters is to make sure the weapon is still there. This usually happens when changing positions like going from sitting to standing. The suspect may stiffen up on the side of their body where the weapon is on to keep it from moving around. Baggy clothes are also a potential warning sign, especially in warm weather, as it can conceal the weight of a gun to an extent.
Other giveaways can alert Secret Service agents long before a potential shooter even knows they’ve been registered as a threat, but they can’t give all of their secrets away.
#10. It bears repeating that the president’s protectors must be ready for literally any situation, no matter how unlikely. Enter the water rescue detail. Their job is to make sure that the current and former heads of the state are safe whenever they are in the water. They train at Kitty Hawk, North Carolina and are trained in maneuvers to extract anybody from any water hazard in any situation. Only about 75 of 3200 agents have what it takes for what some call the most demanding detail in the entire Secret Service.
Further details are shrouded in secrecy. But from boating enthusiast George W. Bush to surfer Barack Obama, these agents are there to ensure that no water-related mishaps befall any US president – past, present, or future.