Obama Gets Secret Service Protection

Senator Barack Obama has requested and been granted Secret Service protection.

Illinois senator and Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama has been placed under the protection of the Secret Service, the agency said Thursday.

The Secret Service would not divulge the reason for the protection, which came at the request of the Obama campaign. The organization said in a written statement that Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff, “after consultation with the congressional advisory committee, authorized the United States Secret Service to protect presidential candidate Senator Barack Obama.”


Protection goes beyond surrounding the candidate with well-armed agents, the Secret Service’s Web site states. The agency does extensive advance work and threat assessments developed by its Intelligence Division to identify potential risks, the site says.

As a former first lady, New York Sen. Hillary Clinton, another Democratic presidential candidate, already has Secret Service protection.

Obama does not seem to qualify for Secret Service protection, nor does Chertoff appear authorized to order it.

Frankly, I don’t begrudge it. Surely, people ought to be free to speak their mind on political issues without fear of bodily harm. Still, it’s not clear where the taxpayer’s obligation picks up; most celebrities simply provide for their own security. Indeed, former presidents will only get ten years of Secret Service protection starting with President Bush.

UPDATE: The Secret Service website — which says exceptions are made only by Executive Order of the president — is somewhat misleading. TITLE 18, CHAPTER 203, § 3056. Powers, authorities, and duties of United States Secret Service is the governing authority.

While the website appears to limit protection of candidates to party nominees within 120 days of the general election, the legislation is broader:

Major Presidential and Vice Presidential candidates and, within 120 days of the general Presidential election, the spouses of such candidates. As used in this paragraph, the term “major Presidential and Vice Presidential candidates” means those individuals identified as such by the Secretary of Homeland Security after consultation with an advisory committee consisting of the Speaker of the House of Representatives, the minority leader of the House of Representatives, the majority and minority leaders of the Senate, and one additional member selected by the other members of the committee.

AP’s Nedra Pickler reports that took place.

(One could read the Secret Service website that way two, given the awkward comma usage: “Major presidential and vice presidential candidates, and their spouses within 120 days of a general presidential election.”)

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm veteran. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. Tlaloc says:

    I wonder what precisely prompted the percieved need for SS.

    Obama’s not my favortie candidate (hard to have a favorite candidate with the positively weak showing by both parties this time around), but I’d rather not see him gunned down by some Klan freak.

  2. Jeff Q. says:

    I think Buchanan had USSS protection after an incident in ’96 during the primaries. If not him, it was someone else that year who wasn’t yet the nominee.

  3. Steph says:

    I think it’s odd that in the days of the crap of the world the muslim terrorists wanting to kill kill kill we only give former presidents 10 years after they leave office.

  4. David Nick says:

    Well if there wasn’t a threat, Obama wouldn’t need protection. While I don’t think we need to grant Secret Service protection nilly willy to Presidential Candidates, I do believe that if they have a legitimate need, give it to them.

    Lord knows we have enough bigots in this country to warrant it.

  5. Whether warranted or not it is good political posturing and increases the candidate in stature against the wannabees of special protection.