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The Secret Service: The Hidden History of an Enigmatic Agency
     

The Secret Service: The Hidden History of an Enigmatic Agency

4.0 2
by Philip H. Melanson, Ph.D., Peter F. Stevens (With), Peter Stevens
 
Pulling the veil off a highly visible yet tight-lipped federal agency, acclaimed scholar Philip Melanson has created the first definitive history of the Secret Service. With 8 pages of photographs, rigorous research and interviews with former White House staffers, retired agents, Service training dropouts, and the first female agent on the presidential detail,

Overview

Pulling the veil off a highly visible yet tight-lipped federal agency, acclaimed scholar Philip Melanson has created the first definitive history of the Secret Service. With 8 pages of photographs, rigorous research and interviews with former White House staffers, retired agents, Service training dropouts, and the first female agent on the presidential detail, Melanson presents the agency's hidden history and examines its role in the headlines of our times. Here are revelations about the assassination of JFK and the shooting of President Reagan, along with threats against other presidents; presidential demands on agents and agency funds (by JFK, LBJ, Nixon, the Bushes, and Clinton); alcoholism, divorce, and burnout among agents; the Service's inexplicable failure to develop a profile of assassins that would facilitate effective prevention; and how the gender gap within the Service has been institutionalized. Assailing the image of a highly professional and apolitical organization, the book examines the pervasive, often detrimental influence that politics exerts on the Service, typified by Kenneth Starr's efforts to use agents' testimony against President Clinton. Melanson also discusses the profound new challenge facing the Secret Service: How to respond in a post–September 11 world, as brazen new assassination methods proliferate. With this provocative study, one federal agency still veiled in secrecy is exposed for all to see. Explosive and revealing, this is the first comprehensive history of one of our government's most shrouded agencies.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
This comprehensive, sometimes critical and often dry history explains how the Secret Service grew out of the Treasury Department in 1865, with the original mission of protecting American currency against counterfeiters. Melanson, an expert on political violence and government secrecy, and Stevens (The Voyage of the Catalpa) show how, late in the century, the Service gradually (and initially without congressional authorization) expanded its mission into presidential protection. Opponents of the expansion thought assigning a guard to the president would give him the trappings of monarchy, making him less accessible to the people. The most compelling chapter examines the failure that continues to haunt the agency: the 1963 assassination of President Kennedy. The authors analyze what went wrong in Dallas: Kennedy's limo driver reacted too slowly to the first bullet, failing to take evasive driving action so as to avoid the second, fatal shot. Moreover, according to the authors, Kennedy's death was a failure of intelligence-sharing between the Secret Service and the FBI. Following the assassination, the authors argue, the agency "began a pattern of lies about its fatal missteps in Dallas." All aspects of the agency's work are covered extensively: recruiting, training, intelligence gathering, the often-tense relationship between the agency and the people it tries to protect. President Johnson, in particular, rebelled against Secret Service restrictions, once literally pissing on an agent. This is a worthwhile book for assassination buffs and those with an interest in the inner workings of government. (Nov.) Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
A researcher of major US assassinations and consultant on political violence thoroughly traces the history of the Secret Service and its seemingly incongruous dual missions. Particularly since the Kennedy assassination, the Secret Service has been fixed in the public eye for what it didn't do that day-protect the country's Chief Executive. But the agency was originally formed under the Treasury Department solely to combat the rampant counterfeiting that, by the end of the Civil War, had flooded the country with bogus currency. Some 30 years later, in 1894, a request direct from Mrs. Grover Cleveland, who had heard rumors of a plot against her husband, resulted in three agents being posted to the Cleveland summer home (illegally, since Congress was never advised). For the next half-century, the "protectee" segment of the Secret Service mission gradually evolved from ad hoc to official (under the Truman administration). In mining the relationship between the agency and presidential families it has served, Melanson provides some fascinating insights. Exasperated by Eleanor Roosevelt's disdain for personal protection, for example, agents offered to provide her with her own gun and train her to use it if she would constantly carry it, in return for which they would leave her alone. She agreed, then put the gun in a dresser drawer; the agency, in turn, tracked her clandestinely everywhere she went. There are others: Kennedy's fatalism, Nixon's fixations-he spent more on "improving security" (including landscaping) at San Clemente than the original property cost him-and Clinton's charging into an adoring crowd with agents desperately hanging on by his belt. Now, however, with terroristtechnology ratcheting up the threats against a growing list of protectees, the Secret Service's "mission impossible" often burns out its best and bravest. Somewhat plodding, but with gems along the path.

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780786712519
Publisher:
Basic Books
Publication date:
08/25/2003
Edition description:
First Edition
Pages:
384
Product dimensions:
5.52(w) x 8.21(h) x 1.03(d)

Meet the Author


Philp H. Melanson, Ph. D., an expert on political violence and governmental secrecy, has done original research into the JFK, RFK, and Martin Luther King assassinations, prompting appearances on CBS Evening News, BBC, History Channel, Discovery Channel, and C-SPAN. He has served as a consultant to the (JFK) Assassinations-Records Review Board, and is coordinator of the RFK Assassination Archives at the University of Massachussetts Dartmouth. His last book was SECRECY WARS: NATIONAL SECURITY, PRIVACY, AND THE PUBLIC'S RIGHT TO KNOW. He lives in Marion, Massachussetts.

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The Secret Service: The Hidden History of an Enigmatic Agency 4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 2 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
If you can ignore the typos, this is one of the most fascinating books I've read in a while. Very readable, which means a lot with non-fiction. I really enjoyed the book and learned a lot. Every angle is covered and very few questions are left unanswered. Very well researched.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Melanson and Stevens do a great job of peeling back the thick bureaucratic layers that lie atop all our federal agencies; they expose without partiality the mistakes that exposed (though did not cause) the greatest tragedy of this country: KENNEDY'S DEATH... However they also sing the great men and women's praises... BUT GAWD!!! the typos are embarassing and should be ignored if possible when reading this book...