Power Players

Secrets of a Secret Service Agent

Power Players

Political Punch

Dan Emmett was just eight years old when he decided what he wanted to do with his life. The seed was planted on November 22, 1963, the day President John F. Kennedy was assassinated.

"The photograph of agent Clint Hill on the back of the limousine doing his best to protect the President and Mrs. Kennedy... made such an impact that I decided at that point that becoming a Secret Service agent, becoming one of the people that protected the President of the United States was something that I wanted to do one day," said Emmett, a former Secret Service agent and author of a new book, 'Within Arm's Length.'

The former Marine went on to serve under four presidents -- Reagan, Bush, Clinton and Bush, working the presidential protective detail under the last three. The biggest misconception about a Secret Service agent, said the veteran, is that it is a glamorous job.

"It's very hard work, very long hours. You're looking at moving three, four, five times doing a career, especially in the presidential protective division," said Emmett. "The reality is, you're changing shifts every two weeks, you're traveling all over the world. Your sleep patterns are totally disrupted. Your nutrition is totally disrupted."

If your impression of what it is like being a Secret Service agent comes from the Clint Eastwood movie 'In the Line of Fire,'  Emmett said there is one particular scene that is right on the money. Eastwood's character is on Air Force One, fighting a cold, when someone asks him how he feels. "Sick as a dog, really," he responds.

"That's what being an agent is," said Emmett. "You're on Air Force One, but you're not there as a guest of the President's. You're there working, and you have to work on regardless of whether you're sick, whether you're well, whether there are family issues back home. The mission comes first above all else."

One of Emmet's most difficult details was taking President Bill Clinton jogging through the public areas of Washington, D.C.

"It was a very dangerous time even back in the 90s," said Emmett. Dangerous enough that the Secret Service team tried to discourage Clinton from running in public, but to no avail.

"We formulated security plan that seemed to work fairly well, but we were definitely an attack waiting to happen."

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