IN THE LINE OF FIRE
FEBRUARY 12, 1998
A former Secret Service officer appeared before the federal grand jury investigating perjury and other allegations concerning President Clinton and Monica Lewinsky. At least one current officer has reportedly been subpoenaed. After this background report, experts debate whether Secret Service officers should be required to testify.
KWAME HOLMAN: The Secret Service employs nearly 2,000 agents, some of whom are assigned to protect the President wherever he goes, whether it's shaking hands in a crowd--traveling--or going on his morning job. Since the assassination of President William McKinley in 1908, the Secret Service has protected every president, vice president, and their immediate families.
A RealAudio version of this segment is available.
February 12, 1998:
Experts debate whether Secret Service officers should testify.
June 20, 1996:
The Secret Service's role in a controversy surrounding FBI files containing materials on Bush and Reagan administration employees, obtained by the Clinton White House.
Review the NewsHour's coverage of Kenneth Starr's investigation into the relationship between President Clinton and former White House intern Monica Lewinsky.
Browse the NewsHour's coverage of the White House
The Washingtonpost.com's coverage of the crisis.
SPOKESMAN: Ladies and gentlemen, the president and vice president of the United States.
Close contact with the President makes Secret Service officers attractive witnesses.
KWAME HOLMAN: The Secret Service provides advanced security when the President leaves the confines of the White House. Uniformed agents inspect bags and screen people. Plained-clothes agents secure the event location and route the President will travel. Sharpshooters position themselves to cover the President's arrival. Other agents are assigned to stay physically close to the President. Independent Counsel Kenneth Starr reportedly wants to know whether that close relationship put agents in a position to observe any meetings between President Clinton and former White House intern Monica Lewinsky. One former Secret Service agent says agents are not around the President constantly.
But on a normal day, the President has some privacy.
LARRY SHEAFE: When the President is in the Oval Office, the Secret Service is not in the Oval Office or in the complex of small offices that are next to the Oval Office, for instance, where is secretary might be, the small office directly opposite the Oval Office. The agents are securing the entrances to those offices, so, again, in a normal business day the President has a great deal of privacy from the Secret Service. When the President leaves the White House, then he's leaving a very secure environment. Then the Secret Service is in very close proximity to the President.
KWAME HOLMAN: Former Agent Larry Sheafe worked for the Secret Service for more than 20 years. He says it would be a mistake to require Secret Service agents to testify.
LARRY SHEAFE: I think it puts the agents in a terrible position because now they're being asked to testify on lifestyle issues perhaps and certainly not on a crime. I'm not sure what the agents will do, to be quite honest with you. I was asked this question myself, and I just don't believe I'd testify. And I just don't--for the Service to do its job, it has to maintain its relationship with the protectees, and you'll lose it if you end up testifying in a court of law about something that occurred that is not a crime and really does not impact on the performance of the person's job, whether it be the President or the First Lady or the Vice President, or the prime minister of Israel.
During Watergate, Secret Service agents explained Nixon's audio recording system.
KWAME HOLMAN: Twice before, Secret Service agents have testified in high profile cases but only on matters of basic procedure. Secret Service agents explained President Nixon's audio recording system to the congressional committee investigating the Watergate scandal. And agents testified at the trial of Lenette Frohm, who attempted to assassinate Gerald Ford. There is no precedent for Secret Service agents testifying in a criminal investigation of a president. Officials at the Justice Department and the Treasury Department, which oversees the Secret Service, say they will attempt to block any subpoena of agents issued by independent counsel Starr. Last month, the judge in Paula Jones' sexual harassment suit ruled against requiring Secret Service agents to testify because such testimony would compromise the security of the President. But the judge said her ruling was limited to the Jones matter.