The Quick 10: 10 Unexpected Secret Service Duties

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Being a Secret Service agent isn't as action-packed as they make it seem in the movies. It's a lot of observation and surveillance, sure, but the President and his family have the power to ask their protection staff to do just about anything - including serving as a urinal. Yup... these 10 menial tasks are a long shot from car chases and running down would-be assassins.

1. Calvin Coolidge made eight of his secret service people search for a lost boot once. It happened to be just as they were headed out the door to successor Herbert Hoover's inauguration; it nearly made them all late.

2. This wasn't the first odd request from Silent Cal. His chief form of exercise was riding an electric horse he kept in the White House; he often requested that his Secret Service agents join him in his workout.

3. JFK allegedly made his secret service squad visit a gallery in D.C. to have pictures of himself framed - pictures of himself in unusual sexual positions with various women. The owner of the gallery came forward in the book The Dark Side of Camelot.

4. Gerald Ford blamed his farts on his secret service people, conspicuously saying things like, "Jesus, was that you? Show some class!"

5. Franklin Delano Roosevelt famously kept his disability under wraps, always striving to downplay his physical problems. As a result, his Secret Service agents found themselves serving as paparazzi bruisers - when they spotted photographers snapping pics of FDR in a position they knew he wouldn't appreciate (being carried by other Secret Servicemen, for example), they confiscated the cameras or made sure they were knocked to the ground and "accidentally" destroyed.

6. Presidents who used their Secret Service detail to keep their wives at bay when their mistresses were in town included FDR, LBJ, and JFK. Lest you think it's something about those initialed Presidents, we can probably assume Bill Clinton did the same thing.

7. Lyndon B. Johnson once asked a Secret Serviceman to shield him while he peed outside, but that's not the strange part - LBJ decided to purposely pee down the agent's trouser leg. When the agent mentioned how gross that was, LBJ was unapologetic, apparently saying, "That's all right, son. It's my prerogative."

8. We don't know for sure what "keep the landscape from interfering with security" means, but when this $12,000 a year charge showed up on Nixon's service detail, the press jumped on it, alleging that taxpayer money was being used to make sure that Nixon's tulips were being watered regularly. Hmm.

9. Aiding and abetting underage drinkers surely isn't on the Secret Service job description, but that's exactly what they did in 2001 when the Bush twins used fake IDs to go out on the town in Austin, Texas, and order alcoholic drinks when they were just 20. Aware of what was happening, the Secret Service whisked the girls away before they could be arrested. However, they were later cited for the offense.

10. Jimmy Carter liked to ask his Secret Service detail to carry bags for him. They complained that being loaded down with his luggage seriously hindered their ability to quickly react if Carter should need unexpected help; Jimmy relented.

And here's one that's not the Secret Service, but entertaining nonetheless:

Archie Butt, William Howard Taft's military aide, was assigned to the duty of discreetly waking Taft up when he fell asleep in meetings... which was apparently quite a frequent occurrence.

What do you think - are these gross misuses of the Secret Service, or should they be expected to do whatever the President asks them to do, however demeaning?

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July 12, 2010 - 1:01pm
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