The Secret Service expects to borrow more than 2,000 immigration officers and federal airport screeners next year to help guard an expanded field of presidential candidates, while shifting 250 of its own agents from investigations to security details, reports the Washington Post. Burdened by White House wartime security needs, the persistent threat of terrorism, and a field of at least 20 presidential contenders, the Secret Service was showing strain even before the Department of Homeland Security ordered protection for Sen. Barack Obama (D-Il.) on May 3, the earliest a candidate has ever been assigned protection in an election season.
The agency’s $110 million-plus budget for campaign protection — two-thirds more than the record $65 million it spent in 2004 — was prepared when the service did not expect to be guarding Obama or anyone else until January. The agency has already been forced to scale back its efforts to battle counterfeiting and cybercrime. Since Sept. 11, 2001, the Bush administration has doubled the number of officials granted Secret Service protection, from 26 to 54, including top White House aides such as the chief of staff and national and homeland security advisers. As recently as the beginning of Bill Clinton’s administration in 1993, no White House aides had such security details. The service is also gearing up for January 2009, when President Bush is set to leave office; officials are mindful of the 1993 assassination effort by Iraq against his father, former president George H.W. Bush.