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When the Secret Service Did Their Job and Prevented the Assassination of President Clinton

Updated on April 20, 2012
UnnamedHarald profile image

I try to make history readable and interesting, warts and all. We must look to the past to understand the present and confront the future.

US Secret Service agents in Washington DC, 2008.
US Secret Service agents in Washington DC, 2008. | Source

Secret Service Scandal

The recent escapades of the US Secret Service fill the media with all sorts of titillating news items: agents cavorting with prostitutes, an agent bragging about checking out Sarah Palin while guarding her (he posted that on Facebook-- what is he, a frat boy?), infamous “wheels up” parties-- apparently in reference to party time when the president is out of their hair. Is anyone really surprised at the behavior of those who live in a different world than the hoi-polloi anymore?

Secret Service agent Clinton Hill nestling against the fastback of the presidential limousine after JFK was shot. November 22, 1963.
Secret Service agent Clinton Hill nestling against the fastback of the presidential limousine after JFK was shot. November 22, 1963. | Source

The Secret Service's Blackest Day

News hounds love a catchy hook, so the latest one is “this is the blackest day in the history of the Secret Service”. No, the blackest day was when the Secret Service was unable to prevent the assassination of President Kennedy. And it wasn't the blackest day because they were screwing around, it's the blackest day simply because POTUS (President Of The United States) was killed while under their protection. Any Secret Service agent worth his or her salt will tell you that. Most agents are outraged at their fellow agents' behavior and rightly so, but it remains to be seen how endemic this sort of behavior is.


The Secret Service has a difficult job to do, no question. In addition, if they are doing their job, you're not likely to hear about it. Short of an agent flinging himself in front of the president and taking a bullet on national television, most of their successes are preventative in nature and not talked about. One such case was the attempt to assassinate Bill Clinton.

President Bill Clinton
President Bill Clinton | Source
Manila, Philippines:
Manila, Philippines

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Clinton In Manila

In 1996, President Clinton was in the Philippines to attend an Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) summit meeting in Manila. While there, he planned on also visiting with a local official and became a bit surly when his schedule ran late. Finally, as the motorcade was almost ready to pull out, agents picked up radio chatter regarding a wedding and a bridge. In the murky world of terrorism, it was known at that time that “wedding” could be terrorist code for a hit and the president's route was over a bridge. Lewis C. Merletti, then Secret Service Director, took no chances and changed the route. This angered Clinton, since it would make him even later, but then he accepted the change and didn't override it. The motorcade went by a different route.

Bridge Bomb

Agents went to the bridge and investigated it. They found the bridge had been rigged with explosives. Had the radio chatter been missed or ignored or if President Clinton had overridden the route change, it is likely that he would have been killed. Recent technological advances have enabled the Secret Service to include an electronic-countermeasures vehicle in the president's motorcade that can supposedly jam remote detonation signals, but not back then.

Osama bin Laden

It is suspected that Osama bin Laden was the mastermind and main source of funding behind the assassination plot, having been indicted-- years before 9/11-- for an earlier 1994 plot to kill Clinton. The incident was kept top secret for years, until law professor Ken Gormley published his book entitled The Death of American Virtue: Clinton vs Starr in 2010, attributing the revelations to former Secret Service Director Merletti.

The United States Secret Service star logo.
The United States Secret Service star logo. | Source

Successes and Excesses

Readers of my articles know I am not a fan of police states, but nor am I ignorant of the threats facing us. When the police, the FBI, the Secret Service, et al are doing the jobs we expect them to do, it's important we recognize their successes as well as mind their excesses.


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    • UnnamedHarald profile imageAUTHOR

      David Hunt 

      9 years ago from Cedar Rapids, Iowa

      tireless, thanks for the comment. Well, at least that was the perception-- I agree that there seemed to be more integrity in the past.

    • tirelesstraveler profile image

      Judy Specht 

      9 years ago from California

      UnnamedHarald- What has this world come to. Secret Service and the FBI used to be men of integrity. As the leader goes, so goes the nation.

    • UnnamedHarald profile imageAUTHOR

      David Hunt 

      9 years ago from Cedar Rapids, Iowa

      Thank you, aethelthryth, for reading and your kind comment. It makes a change, doesn't it, from the excesses going on in our society?

    • aethelthryth profile image


      9 years ago from American Southwest

      There are a whole bunch of jobs where if the person does their job right, you'll never know it was done at all. I think you do our whole society a service by reminding us of these people to whom we owe so much.

    • UnnamedHarald profile imageAUTHOR

      David Hunt 

      9 years ago from Cedar Rapids, Iowa

      Thanks for reading, old albion.

    • old albion profile image

      Graham Lee 

      9 years ago from Lancashire. England.

      Hi UH. Interesting and thought provoking hub.


    • UnnamedHarald profile imageAUTHOR

      David Hunt 

      9 years ago from Cedar Rapids, Iowa

      ata, thanks for commenting and sharing. What we need more than anything is an informed populous that gives a damn. Oh, and thanks for sharing noel autor's hub-- I enjoyed that and followed him.

    • UnnamedHarald profile imageAUTHOR

      David Hunt 

      9 years ago from Cedar Rapids, Iowa

      MG, thanks for reading and your kind comment.

    • MG Singh profile image

      MG Singh 

      9 years ago from UAE

      Excellent post. US Presidents are always at risk

    • ata1515 profile image


      9 years ago from Buffalo, New York.

      "it's important we recognize their successes as well as mind their excesses." I couldn't agree more! Great hub, voted up and sharing!


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