War on terrorism spurs House to grant presidents Secret Service protection for life

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The 1994 legislation, passed by Democrats and signed by Mr. Clinton, took effect for any president inaugurated after Mr. Clinton, meaning the younger Mr. Bush would be the first to lose his protection.

Rep. Howard Coble, a North Carolina Republican who led the fight in the 1990s to limit protection, said the 10-year mark was a good compromise then and still stands now.

“I think we have seen that being a former president can be a pretty lucrative career, and I feel that after 10 years, if these former presidents feel the need for additional security, they should pay for it themselves,” he said Tuesday.

Former presidents get other taxpayer-funded benefits such as staff, office space and an annual pension, all of which totals about $4 million a year.

But having Secret Service protection is a status symbol of incalculable worth.

During presidential campaigns, candidates instantly gain more notice when they are granted protection, and it produces a dramatically different effect at events.

Mr. Emmett said former presidents love the fact that they have a driver who never gets lost, is always on time and, best of all, comes free of charge to them.

He said it would be easy for former presidents to outfit their own details, given the glut of retired agents with experience and the wealth that former presidents accumulate after they leave office.

Only one former president has been attacked — Theodore Roosevelt, who was shot by an anarchist in 1912 even as he was campaigning for president on the progressive Bull Moose Party ticket. Iraqi intelligence agents plotted to assassinate George H.W. Bush with a car bomb in Kuwait in 1993, but that plan was foiled.

“Protection for former presidents has never really been based on hard intelligence but rather provided as a perk of the job,” Mr. Emmett said.

Mr. Emmett points out that one former president, Richard M. Nixon, begged out of the arrangement. In 1985, 11 years after he left office, he said he no longer wanted the Secret Service detail.

“It is noteworthy, however, to mention he did not give up protection. He merely hired his own security. It seemed to work out fine,” Mr. Emmett said.

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