In a rare instance of pulling back the curtain, the Secret Service granted Life permission to shoot some photos of them in action. In one shot, the caption shows how they protect the POTUS (President of the United States) when working a rope line.
When it comes to security at this level, one way to manage the risk of an AOP (“attack on the principal”) is to grab hold, and not let go. When the president works a rope line, one agent’s hand is never more than six inches away from him—and frequently rests right on his waist, or his back, or literally grips the back of his belt—ready to tackle the commander in chief in the event of an emergency, or spirit him away at any genuine sign of trouble.
The Beast has its own air recirculation system to protect the president in the case of a chemical attack. Its doors are now sheathed in 8-inch-thick military-grade armor. Even the bulletproof windows are five inches thick. “The limousines of yesteryear were designed to provide protection and to get the president out of any situation,” Ken Lucci, CEO of Ambassador Limousine Inc. and owner of two Reagan-era limos, told CNN. “Today, they [the Secret Service] expect a prolonged attack, and they expect an attack that is a lot more violent than [with] a weapon you can hold in your hand. It literally is a rolling bunker.”
But this photo essay is not simply about procedures and tools that the Secret Service use. In this photo, the caption describes tactics to spot warning signs in crowds.
“You develop a knack,” Joe Petro told LIFE when asked about warning signs that agents look for when working near crowds. “You develop a way of watching. We all go through the same training, but we develop our own styles of scanning, assessing. We watch for someone who looks uncomfortable, or out of place. Dressed wrong for the weather. Someone unsmiling when everyone else is laughing and waving. And then, every once in a while, you catch someone staring at you. Maybe they’re just curious about the job, or you happened to lock eyes at the instant their gaze moved briefly from the center of attention. But it’s strange, and it definitely raises flags—even if a moment later it’s clear that it meant absolutely nothing.”
As it turns out, the Secret Service is not just dedicated to the President.
The Secret Service is not made up exclusively of agents wearing suits, ties, shades, and earpieces. In fact, as the agency’s “dual mission” is to both protect VIPs as well as safeguard the nation’s financial infrastructure (e.g., take down counterfeiters, fiscal gangsters, ID thieves, etc.), most agents spend as much time in SWAT-style gear as in white shirts and wingtips.
Ever wanted to know what equipment is available to the Secret Service? Here’s the lowdown:
[T]he weaponry available to agents is among the most advanced and lethal on the planet, including SIG Sauer P229 pistols fit with huge .357 cartridges; classic Remington 870 shotguns; light (7 lb.), 30-round, state-of-the-art M4 carbines; Uzis; and the compact, thoroughly nasty-looking Belgian FN P90 submachine gun (pictured) with a top-mounted magazine of armor-piercing rounds.
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