Threats Against Obama

Continuing on with our theme of anti-Obama wackaloonery, including the inherent racism involved in that, there is not additional evidence that there are indeed more death threats against our President than usual.

From the Boston Globe:

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.

This is leading some to consider the possibility that the Secret Service drop its financial crime-fighting mission to focus on protection.

The Secret Service, long under the Treasury Department but now part of the Department of Homeland Security, was established in 1865 to thwart counterfeiting, a focus that has expanded to include a host of electronic and financial crimes.

Its mission soon expanded to investigating the Ku Klux Klan and conducting counterespionage operations during the Spanish-American War and World War I.

The job of protecting presidents started in 1894 with Grover Cleveland, who was guarded part time. That role expanded after the assassination of William McKinley in 1901, and it became a crime to threaten the president in 1917.

We could save a lot of money if Republicans would stop telling their constituents to use violence to advance their conservative causes.

More like this

We could save a lot of money if Republicans would stop telling their constituents to use violence to advance their conservative causes.

Fat chance of that. Fox ratings would plummet. WorldNutDaily wouldn't have anything to publish and they are both less hate-filled than many others.

So, if threatening the president is a crime, wouldn't stringent enforcement of those laws help ease the burden? You'd think it would shift the burden from the secret service to other services.

Also, I wonder about the nominal data. How many threats are being made? when is something a threat? when is it taken serious?

Also, do people who actually plan assassinations even make threats? It sounds like a pretty stupid move.

Alcari, strict enforcement runs into issues. For one, many of the comments aren't direct threats and so it would be hard to cover them. Moreover, the less direct comments may be covered under the First Amendment. So for example, someone publically praying for Obama's death can't be covered under this sort of statute. Similarly, saying something like "Unless Obama dies, X will happen" where X is their personal pet fear isn't a threat either. Very few of the public individuals making inflammatory remarks have actually crossed that line.

Lots of the threats are anonymous and not considered "credible." The old lady with dementia confined to a nursing home who calls her Senator's office and threatens the President and just about everyone else on a daily basis is left to the intern on phone duty. Most offices have one of those.

The Secret Service also protects other federal officials like Members of Congress and Cabinet Secretaries who have received credible threats. So if the anti-government feelings are increasing, it's not just protecting the president, but everyone else that adds to the workload.

For instance, Senator Wellstone had a Secret Service shadow for about a week when I interned in his office during the mid 1990s because there was a credible threat.

At the tail end of the Bush administration, the Secretary of Commerce showed up to to testify at hearing in the Senate with Secret Service protection. Everyone assumed there must have been some sort of threat, because that wasn't standard operating procedure. Some of us may have spent the hearing speculating on who would threaten him and why.

Plus, visiting foreign heads of state get protection. For instance, when I graduated from Carleton, there was a noticable Secret Service presence in the academic procession because the President of Botswana and a Japanese Supreme Court Justice were speakers. This was a fairly low profile event, I don't think we had much notice of the speakers. It's not that big and Northfield is not exactly crime central. But there still were a handful of agents walking in the academic procession not blending at all with faculty in academic robes and birkenstocks. That was the mid-90s, I don't know what they would do today.

Perhaps this would be a time to have a discusion about fragmentation in federal law enforcement and making all the agencies play nice?

By katydid13 (not verified) on 20 Oct 2009 #permalink