Thoughts & Views: Maybe a Hollywood set crew could help

The U.S. Secret Service wants $8 million from Congress to build a fake White House so its agents can practice guarding the real place against outside threats.

Good luck getting it. Good luck getting anything from Congress these days. You can’t even get a free ride; in fact, that’s the one thing you know they won’t cough up. Anyway, you can’t really blame the new director for trying. Judging from the recent lapses that have been spotlighted in the national press – (so much for the “secret” part of their service) – it sounds like those agents of his must have a lot of time on their hands.

So having a place to practice should be a good thing because it will keep those agents occupied doing the secret things they do.

And, what’s more, if I were the director, I certainly wouldn’t stop there.

I mean, think about it: Part of the mission of the Secret Service (yes, I looked at their website to verify this and they didn’t make a secret of it) is to guard and protect our embassies overseas.

Well, we’ve got a whole bunch of embassies around the globe so the director should be asking for replicas of those embassies, too. Like the diplomatic compound in Benghazi, for example, where in 2012 we lost an ambassador and foreign service employee, and another location there where two CIA contractors were killed.

Of course, this is not to say that even if we had been more vigilant about protecting these facilities and representatives that extremists still wouldn’t have found a way to carry out their deadly missions.

Maybe we still need more communication between and among our federal agencies set up to detect and penetrate those groups who are actively seeking to do harm to our governments and representatives. There still seems to be too much territoriality exercised by our security agencies and lessons that were supposedly learned from 9/11 probably have been forgotten.

The Secret Service seems to have been snake-bitten, literally from the day President Lincoln signed the legislation on April 14, 1865, which happens to be the day he was fatally shot by John Wilkes Booth.

But don’t blame them for that outcome: the Secret Service was created as a creature of the U.S. Treasury to combat counterfeiting – then a scourge of the war-disrupted country.

An inept cop, John Parker, was assigned to guard Lincoln that night at Ford’s Theatre if you can believe the website todayifoundout.com which reports that Parker left his post at the president’s box to get a better view of the play and, during intermission, visited a nearby saloon, which probably didn’t help.

But the Secret Service did manage to thwart a counterfeiting gang’s scheme to steal Lincoln’s body and hold it for ransom in return for the release of a convicted counterfeiter.

After 1990, as its own website chronicles, the Secret Service widened its net to investigate any kind of threat, civil or criminal, to federally-insured financial institutions, including cyber-crime.

That, in turn, has led to several successful investigations including, notably, the arrest in 2004 of 24 suspects from various countries on charges of identity theft, computer and credit card fraud that caused the loss of more than $4 million to banks.

And in 2009, harking back to its original mission, the agency arrested nearly 3,000 counterfeiting suspects, nearly all of whom are convicted, and confiscated more than $180 million in phony U.S. currency.

Apparently, they did it without practicing on a currency replicator.

– Ron Leir 

The Observer Staff