Cheney Could Keep Security Detail

Security beyond Cheney's term in office would require special approval.
Security beyond Cheney's term in office would require special approval. (By Evan Vucci -- Associated Press)
By Christopher Lee
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, April 8, 2008

The man code-named "Angler" by the Secret Service will probably continue to receive the agency's protection long after he leaves office next year.

The Secret Service is preparing to provide Vice President Cheney with agents, transportation, advance work and other security-related trappings of executive power for six months after the Bush administration packs up and moves out in January, the agency's director, Mark Sullivan, told Congress last week. The expected cost: $4 million.

Although presidents and their spouses are entitled to Secret Service protection long after they depart the White House, federal law authorizes protective services for the vice president and his immediate family only during his time in office. Extending Cheney's detail would require a directive from the president or a joint resolution of Congress.

"We believe that it's a pretty safe bet with the threat environment we face today that Vice President Cheney will be afforded Secret Service protection upon his departure," Sullivan told the House Appropriations subcommittee on homeland security last week.

Experts say such precautions make sense. The United States is at war abroad and faces the persistent threat of terrorism at home. Cheney, a principal architect of the administration's foreign and national security policies, has been an unusually high-profile No. 2 -- and would remain a target long after his term.

"The critical factor is we are at war," said William H. Pickle, former Secret Service special agent in charge of the vice presidential division from 1998 to 2001, who said he was speaking based on experience and was not privy to current threat information. "We have an enemy who has sworn to destroy this country, and they have sworn to kill both the president and the vice president. So why in the world would we not protect him? It's common sense. The government and this country owe the president and vice president, they owe them that safety."

Such measures are not uncommon. Since Hubert Humphrey in 1969, several former vice presidents have been granted protection extensions of varying lengths, even in times less ominous than these, Secret Service officials said.

"Over the last 40 years, the departing vice president has been afforded protection by our agency," Sullivan told lawmakers. "Going back, the last two vice presidents," -- Al Gore and Dan Quayle -- "we have provided protection going into July of that year that they have departed, for 180 days."

It is unclear whether Cheney could receive protection beyond six months, Secret Service officials said, but another extension would require presidential or congressional action.

The Secret Service does more than protect the political elite -- investigating criminal threats to the nation's financial system is half its mission -- but that protection is undoubtedly what it is best known for.

The agency's origins date to 1865, when it was established as an anti-counterfeiting unit within the Department of the Treasury. It began protecting presidents in 1901 after President William McKinley was shot and killed by anarchist Leon Czolgosz in Buffalo. The agency is now part of the Department of Homeland Security.

Until recently, presidents have been entitled to Secret Service protection for the rest of their lives. But 1994 legislation imposed new restrictions on presidents elected after Jan. 1, 1997, limiting President Bush and his successors to 10 years of protection after leaving office.

The protective services go well beyond the detail of agents that shadow the president (or vice president) wherever he goes. They include providing armored limousines, assessing threats, dispatching advance workers and coordinating with local law enforcement officials to establish security checkpoints and ensure secure, unfettered access for official motorcades.

Security for top political officials and candidates is not inexpensive. The agency is slated to spend $854 million on protection this year, well over half its $1.5 billion budget.


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