Monday, September 7, 2015

Within Arm's Length by Dan Emmett

Within Arm's Length
A secret service agent's definitive inside account of protecting the president
2014
*****
5 stars - very interesting stuff
ALR Blue - not even presidential dogs


Dan Emmett. Marine. Secret Service Agent. CIA spook.

Here we have a no-nonsense tour of what is involved in becoming each of those things, with the main part of the book focused on Mr. Emmett's term as a Secret Service Agent. It's cool stuff. Mr. Emmett is no poet, but I gave the book five stars for both content and for his (mostly) "just the facts" manner of storytelling.

It would be easy for somebody in his shoes to write a political manifesto and he does take a few steps down the path of political opinion now and then, but for the most part he sticks to the main topic. The Secret Service in general, and specifically the Presidential Protective Division is charged with keeping the President of the United States (POTUS) free from harm. They also provide protection services to the presidential family as well as candidates for the position of the presidency. Retired presidents have the option of using the Secret Service, only Richard Nixon declined that offer.

What the reader learns is about the training that goes in to becoming a Secret Service agent. It's a lot. Mr. Emmett also offers stories of specific details and what they involved. Most of his stories are about President Clinton. Most famously, Clinton's proclivity to go jogging around Washington DC and the burden that put on those tasked with keeping him safe. 

He avoids any comments regarding a standing president's decisions or demeanor. His job was to protect the office, not the man. However, the stories he does share are a good reminder that all presidents, regardless of their politics, are human beings and the Secret Service is an organization of men and women that see the human side of things more than anybody. 

I recommend this book to all citizens of the U.S. It certainly gave me a new perspective of what it means to be a member of the Secret Service. 

Now, here's my Secret Service story. President Clinton visited the town where I live in 1994. He was slated to speak at our high school. Now I was in the habit of early morning walks with my dog at the high school and I assure you that the Secret Service knew all about me. I only noticed the vans and guys with earpieces a couple of days before the President's arrival. Yup, no doubt there was a notebook somewhere with "thirty something woman with dog - harmless" written in it. I knew enough not to mess with them. Just go about my business. One of their vans must have had a bomb sniffer dog in it. When we walked by, there was serious barking and the whole thing started shaking. Like all the vans, it was black, unmarked, and had tinted windows, but Agent Fido knew we were there.

Here's a photo of Clinton during his visit. Look at the faces on those Secret Service guys.


1 comment:

  1. Agent Fido, indeed.

    Gergre Bush came through my town in 2006, one block from our door. Secret Service came through and scoped out every house. They also called UPS and got info on every delivery man who ever came through this area (according to our UPS driver) and called every one of them, and presumably ran background checks. The procedures for securing the venues were very detailed. We also were in Waterbury CT when Reagan was running for re-election, and he landed in a helicopter in the high school visible out the back door of our office, just across I-84. Moving around that day was very difficult, and it was sobering to see the snipers in the trees and atop the highway overpass bridges. Since Reagan was speaking about 5 miles away, they closed I-84 to make it easy to get him into downtown. The details I heard from our UPS drivers there, too, were astonishing - and I'm quite certain that we only heard a tiny fraction of what went on (including inspecting all of the sewers and sealing the manholes). This sounds like a good book. But he should have included Agent Fido; that would have been fun.

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