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More power for Secret Service? ACLU and Kopel say "no":

A new article from Fox News explains how Senator Specter inserted a provision into the conference report on the Patriot Act. The provision, which has never been the subject of a congressional hearing or vote, would significantly expand the power of the Secret Service to create restricted zones in which demonstrations and other forms of free speech could be restricted.

For more on the controversy, see this story from the December Washington Post. The text of Specter's proposal (which was originally introduced as a stand-alone bill), is contained in section 2 of S. 1967.

Personally, I am open to serious, fact-based arguments that there is be a legitimate need to expand Secret Service powers--but those arguments have not been presented, since there have never been any Congressional hearings or debate on giving the Secret Service more power. Congress owes the American people the duty of holding hearings and open debate on any new law, and the duty is especially important when the new law would increase the power of the executive branch to limit the exercise of constitutional rights, including the right to freely assemble.

Related Posts (on one page):

  1. Stuart Buck on Secret Service Jurisdiction:
  2. More power for Secret Service? ACLU and Kopel say "no":
Anderson (mail) (www):
All part of making sure that the Tsar isn't forced to encounter any of his subjects who disagree with his wise and divinely inspired policies.

The cowardice of the present administration never fails to sicken me. No wonder they conceal it under tough-guy bluster. My candidate for The Shortest Book of All Time would be "George W. Bush's Dialogues with Hecklers."
1.30.2006 3:37pm
roy (mail) (www):
I have a knee-jerk aversion to any increase in government power, but this doesn't seem like that big a deal. The Secret Service could already go anywhere in the world and arrest people; now a protectee doesn't have to be present at the time. It's effectively an already-existing Executive power, plus a remote control.

As for increasing the sentence, has there been some incident where somebody was released after six months and did something awful within the next six months? If not, I don't see any need to increase the sentence to a year.
1.30.2006 3:47pm
Gordo:
Anderson, in all fairness to GWB, how many Presidents have regularly engaged hecklers? I don't remember Clinton having to deal with the rabid Clinton-hating crowd at his public events.

This is mainly about Presidential security.
1.30.2006 4:02pm
JohnAnnArbor:
I don't remember Clinton having to deal with the rabid Clinton-hating crowd at his public events.

I remember the first George Bush being of good humor about protestors at one speech (a comment about the first amendment being on his mind). At another, he actually addressed a protestor and asked what his question was. The question was something like "Why haven't you addressed [pet cause]?" The reply was "Maybe because you're being rude!" Audience loved it.
1.30.2006 4:06pm
JohnAnnArbor:
Y'know, "Anderson," Senator Specter isn't exactly a "protect-the-Tsar" type.
1.30.2006 4:13pm
Splunge (mail):
Congress owes the American people the duty of holding hearings and open debate on any new law...

I think this is demagogic silliness, and would never be advanced in the context of a Congressional decision the poster found congenial. If this is the best argument that can be mustered against Mr. Specter's action, I'm unimpressed.

We do not live in a tiny Athenian city-state democracy where the citizens can plausibly discuss and vote on every last act of the State. Therefore, Mr. Specter and his colleagues have exercised their considered and experienced judgment that this is a minor issue suitable for Congressional modification without a debate, a vote specific to the question, a week of nationally-televised hearings, or a UN-monitored plebiscite. And that is exactly why we elect them and pay them: to make those kinds of decisions.

Until, to paraphrase the poster, and invert his argument, there is a serious, fact-based argument that the powers of the Secret Service are dangerously broad, e.g. that the SS is -- hmm, let's see -- dragging peaceful protesters off to the gulag to be beaten and starved just because they held up a "Bush = Hitler" sign, then I for one am perfectly happy to accept Mr. Specter's and his colleague's judgment in this matter.

And to reply in advance to one standard type of follow-on, does this mean I'm willing to personally take the risk of being the first person dragged off to the American Lubyanka under the authority of the notorious Specter Amendment? Yup.
1.30.2006 4:27pm
Richard Bellamy (mail):
JohnAnnArbor is likely recalling a Jan. 2005 episode of "This American Life" about Charles Monroe-Kane trying to heckle Bush Sr. -- and failing miserably. You can hear it about twenty minutes into this episode.

Definitely cringe-worthy, especially for those who fear embarrassing themselves in public.
1.30.2006 4:49pm
Anderson (mail) (www):
Anderson, in all fairness to GWB, how many Presidents have regularly engaged hecklers?

Clinton faced hecklers pretty regularly, IIRC from routine news spots.

Bush's dad has been immortalized (sorta) in a great "This American Life" spot about a heckler who interrupted GHWB's speech at some function, only to have Bush Sr. ask him to please show some manners, not interrupt, &let Bush come back to him during Q &A. Which he did, utterly deflating the would-be heckler.

But our current President, if you follow the news, is some kind of wounded dove who can't even let people who might disagree with him into the audience. Try attending a Bush event with an anti-war T-shirt on, &you'll find out how much your rights differ from those of Soviet citiznes.
1.30.2006 5:02pm
carpundit (www):
The Secret Service has all the power it needs. In practice, all other law enforcement agenices defer to the USSS when the President is around, which gives it de facto control over any space it wants. Citizens who object can always go into court and complain, but these complaints are nearly-always moot. In the rare instance where there's a live issue, courts are deferential (such as the favorable decisions around the DNC in Boston in 2004).

Given those facts, and the apparent political use of USSS boundaries by President Bush, why would we want to expand USSS power?

I can't think of a good reason; maybe there isn't one.
1.30.2006 5:23pm
Houston Lawyer:
Heckling is invariably rude behavior and reflects poorly on the heckler. At most functions, the heckler will represent a very small minority opinion, and his bad behavior will only serve to create sympathy for the one he is heckling. My favorite GHWB moment was when he took on Dan Rather on live TV and bested him. While that was more of an ambush on Rather's part, the intent was the same.
1.30.2006 5:24pm
minnie:
Title 18:

(e)(1) When directed by the President, the United States Secret Service is authorized to participate, under the direction of the Secretary of the Treasury, in the planning, coordination, and implementation of security operations at special events of national significance, as determined by the President.
(2) At the end of each fiscal year, the President through such agency or office as the President may designate, shall report to the Congress--
(A) what events, if any, were designated special events of national significance for security purposes under paragraph (1); and
(B) the criteria and information used in making each designation.

Could someone please tell me where I can look to see which events were designated "of national significance for security purposes" by the President? Is that public information? If it is, and all events so designated were ones which we would all agree were political in nature and proper targets of security overseeing, then I will stop worrying about this new law.
1.30.2006 6:44pm
A.S.:
and all events so designated were ones which we would all agree were political in nature and proper targets of security overseeing

Why do the events need to be "political in nature"?

I believe that the Super Bowl is a "special event of national signficance". As well it should be, given that it's incredibly high profile makes it a likely terrorist target.
1.30.2006 8:00pm
Wintermute (www):
Encouraging pushback.
1.30.2006 8:45pm
Anderson (mail) (www):
Heckling is invariably rude behavior and reflects poorly on the heckler. At most functions, the heckler will represent a very small minority opinion, and his bad behavior will only serve to create sympathy for the one he is heckling.

Q: So why is Bush scared of hecklers?

A: Because he is a coward. (Works for me; y'all may have other views.)
1.30.2006 9:37pm
Neal Lang (mail):
The cowardice of the present administration never fails to sicken me. No wonder they conceal it under tough-guy bluster. My candidate for The Shortest Book of All Time would be "George W. Bush's Dialogues with Hecklers."

Kind of like the McCain-Feingold Act that the Democrats used to minimize anti-incumbent political speech at the end of political campaigns when it is obviously the most effective. If you showed 1/10th the angst over that abomination, as you do this, I would allow that you are not just another knee-jerk, Bush hatred.

BTW, when you publish your "Profiles in Political Courage", be sure to include a chapter on how "Hanoi John" Kerry-Heinz dodge debating the Swiftees on his Vietnam and military record, which, BTW, he promised to release in its entirity, and to date has failed to do so.
Q: So why is Bush scared of hecklers?

A: Because he is a coward. (Works for me; y'all may have other views.)

The fact is he is not, however, the Secret Service realize that most of these "moonbats" represent the political party whose idea of an effort at "getting out the vote" involves stabbing tires and destroying property of the opposition.
1.30.2006 11:52pm
roy (mail) (www):
Heckling doesn't seem to be an issue for the change at hand. The new law extends SS protection to events that don't necessarily include the SS's regular protectees as attendees. You can't heckle them if they aren't there.

Sounds like the protest zones (or "1st Amendment Optional" zones) they put up around Presidential appearances can now be put up at arbitrary events, at the President's discretion. Despite my earlier shrug, it seems kind of creepy.
1.31.2006 1:59am
farmer56 (mail):
Let me get this right

I can not buy an ad suporting my choice for president within 30 days of an election.

But that has been held up by the supremes (Free speech anyone?)

BUT stopping people from protesting a person that is not present has a higher form of protection?
1.31.2006 1:17pm
JGR (mail):
Anderson, your immature rant exemplifies why many blogs are reluctant to allow comments.
1) During the Clinton administration, he and the Vice President held a televised "town hall meeting". It later transpired that every single person chosen for a question had been exhaustively pre-interviewed by the Clinton team. This is what politicians do because "appearance is reality in politics".
2) I also recall during the Clinton years reading an article in National Review which contrasted how Clinton treated two different hecklers on two different occasions. In the first, there was a gay activist who yelled out something about AIDS and helping gays, and the President stopped the Secret Service from leading him out and lectured that he took his concerns seriously etc. In the second, a conservative activist yelled something - I don't remember if it was about the economy or family values or what - and the President had him led off in handcuffs and interrogated.
3) A few years ago, a writer in Liberty magazine wrote an amused reflection on something he or she had recently read about history. I don't actually remember all the details - I think it was the war of 1812 - but the story concerned many angry Americans marching to the White House to protest a war they didn't want, and (I think) the President's wife - arriving in a carriage - having to plead with the protesters not to burn the White House down. The gist of the writer's article was how nice it would be if Presidents still had to face the public face to face like this. Please note how far back in history this writer had to go - Presidents don't just meet with the public anymore, and haven't done so for a very long time, which brings me to
4) Like many readers of Volokh (who tend to be sophisticated and opinionated)I don't particulary like or respect President Bush. What separates most of us here from the rabid left is that whatever our politics, we try to be consistent and apply the same standards to both Democrats and Republicans. Hence we cringe when the left talks about the evil Bush attacking Iraq, when Clinton and most Democrats spent 8 years saying Saddam was evil, passing resolutions in Congress authorizing force against Iraq etc. It is simply ludicrous to single out Bush for not having talks with hecklers - Did Clinton or Reagan or JFK or Roosevelt and so on?
1.31.2006 1:18pm
Seamus (mail):
Please note how far back in history this writer had to go - Presidents don't just meet with the public anymore, and haven't done so for a very long time

Well, after the Katrina decacle, I read an article telling how as recently as 1965 (i.e., about the time I started paying attention to national politics), President Johnson went to New Orleans to see the devastation done by Hurricane Betsy. According to the article, as Johnson was walking down a street with his entourage, a poor woman ran straight from the side of the street straight up to the president and poured out her tale of hurricane-caused woe to him. The president was so moved that he gave orders for someone to take care of her right away. I can't imagine anything like that happening today.

In 1979 or 1980, after a couple of marine guards at our embassy in Islamabad were killed by a Pakistani mob, I read that funeral for one of them would be held at the post chapel at Ft. Meyer, with interment at Arlington National Cemetery. I decided to attend the funeral, since I'd been planning to take that day off from work anyway. Shortly before the ceremony was about to begin, there was a slight hubbub, followed by the entry of President Jimmy Carter. When I went up to receive communion toward the end of the service, I walked less than ten yards away from the president.

You don't really have to go back to the War of 1812 to find a time when presidents were more accessible to the people.
1.31.2006 2:48pm
Seamus (mail):
I meant the first paragraph of my last post to be a block quote. Sorry about that.
1.31.2006 2:49pm