President Barack Hussein Obama is the target of more than 30 potential death threats — every day.
During the 2012 presidential campaign there was an increase in the number of death threats, which further challenged an already over-stretched and under-resourced Secret Service according to author Ronald Kessler. His new book is titled In the President’s Secret Service: Behind the Scenes with Agents in the Line of Fire and the Presidents They Protect. After conducting exclusive interviews with more than one hundred current and former Secret Service agents, Kessler reveals their secrets for the first time.
Some threats to the President, whose Secret Service codename is Renegade, have been publicized, including an alleged plot by white supremacists in Tennessee to assassinate Barack Obama while wearing top hats and tails. And just this month Christopher Castillo was arrested after threatening to kill President Obama on Facebook.
But most death threats are kept quiet because the Secret Service fears that revealing details of them would only amp up the number of copycats. Each threat has to be thoroughly investigated, although most turn up to be not credible.
Nowhere outside Washington is the Obama security bubble more apparent than in Chicago. When the president or first family return home, and especially when they visit their South Side home, there are longer road closures, more uniform presence and extended perimeters.
Some reports this week cite unnamed Secret Service officials as saying that there have been more than 40,000 individual threats against President Obama investigated by the Secret Service since he was elected in 2008.
“We have half the number of agents we need, but requests for more agents have fallen on deaf ears at headquarters,” a Secret Service agent told Kessler. “Headquarters’ mentality has always been, ‘You can complete the mission with what you have. You’re a U.S.S.S. agent’.”
The Secret Service says that many of those who make such threats are mentally ill, and it is the goal of the Secret Service to find them help. It can be “sobering,” they said, when agents show up at their door.
According to the Secret Service, the president is the most threatened person in the U.S., regardless of political party.
The President is not made aware of all threats against him, however, because as the Secret Service says, “the sheer number would be overwhelming and, frankly, distracting.”