During a recent trip to visit his brother Ari in the village of Watch Hill in Westerly, R.I., White House chief of staff Rahm Emanuel rated an advance team, about six agents from the Secret Service, and a few black Chevy Suburbans traveling with him.
From what I hear, the Secret Service met with the local police department to review travel routes and evacuation plans. A large police detail was added to the security team during a visit to the newly renovated Ocean House.
Assuming that I’m providing good information, does a civilian chief of staff – who is not in line to succeed the president after a tragedy and not afforded protection specifically by law – rate a six-person Secret Service detail and advance team to check out the locations on the itinerary?
Emanuel does not even have to be confirmed by the Senate.
I was not even going to bring this subject up … that was until I read about this week’s Top Secret America series (hat tip Big Journalism) from the Washington Post concerning the exponential growth and billions of dollars in possible waste within the intelligence community and the Homeland Security Department, of which the Secret Service is a part.
Not sure if there really is a connection, but I did look at the Secret Service website and found that Emanuel is not automatically qualified by law for Secret Service protection, so if he does have a detail, it must be as designated per executive order of the president. That said, I can’t find an executive order from Obama on the subject.
On May 11, White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs was asked about a post in the Daily Caller concerning protection details and drivers for Valerie Jarrett and David Axelrod. New York Times reporter Sheryl Gay Stolberg asked the questions… (Full transcript)
Stolberg: Robert, I noticed the Daily Caller today reported that Valerie Jarrett and David Axelrod have drivers — government drivers to and from work and been accorded Secret Service protection. And I wondered if that is correct. And also are any other top aides to the President — Rahm or yourself or others — afforded that status?
Gibbs: Afforded what status?
Stolberg: The Secret Service protection and also the driver.
Gibbs: Well, each President is afforded six opportunities to provide transportation. The President does that.
Stolberg: Six for the —
Gibbs: I’m not going to get into who has protection and who doesn’t. That is a decision that is made by the Secret Service. I will mention that the number of non-statutory protectees — obviously there are people that have protection based on the law. The Secret Service makes evaluations as to those who might need it. Again, I’m not going to get into who, where, and why. But those currently — currently in our administration there are 33 percent fewer non-statutory protectees than at the end of the previous administration.
Stolberg: And can you just explain, does the protectee status come with a car —
Stolberg: — or is that a separate decision that the President makes to provide transportation?
Gibbs: No, no. The President doesn’t make protectee decisions. Protectee decisions are made at — by the Secret Service. If you have questions about that, I would speak with the Secret Service.
Stolberg: Okay, but he makes the decisions about the transport?
Gibbs: It is up to six that can do that, yes.
Stolberg: — and has up to six that he can do that.
Stolberg: Can you say why he chose Valerie and David as two of the six?
Gibbs: Based on their jobs.
Stolberg: You get one?
The law to me seems quite clear. The president – exclusively by executive order – determines who will get protection. That said, I’m quite certain the Secret Service advises the president and the Executive Branch on who should get protection … which would result in the executive order.
Before you start with the entire “Bush did this, and Bush did that crap…” let’s make it clear there were transparent executive orders from the Bush administration concerning Secret Service protection that were non-statutory, including an order signed by Bush extending protection to his daughters after he left office for a specified (unknown) period of time.
There seems to be zero transparency concerning protection offered to White House staff members in the Obama administration.
So, since we seem to be lacking a current poll question … I ask …