The Civil War Connections Blog

Code Name: “Flamingo”

Hello faithful Connection followers! I hope everyone is enjoying some nice spring weather, and not suffering from allergies. I believe I hinted to this last week, but today I’m going to discuss the Secret Service. I think I tell you every time I do a blog that it’s topic is something of interest to me, and I’ll be honest that today is no different. But seriously let’s all admit it – the Secret Service is pretty freaking cool. They have that whole James Bond thing going on – looking cool as a cucumber while being ready to defend the President of the United States in a suit and sunglasses. You might be wondering how the Secret Service relates to the Civil War. Well, prior to the Civil War there was no Secret Service and in a horrible twist of irony, President Abraham Lincoln signed the legislation creating the Secret Service hours before he was shot on April 14, 1865. [1] At the time however, the Secret Service would not have protected him, because their original function was to prevent counterfeit currency, and it would eventually become a division of the Treasury Department until 2003, when it was moved to the Department of Homeland Security.

 

Secret Service Group, between 1905 and 1945. Courtesy of the Library of Congress online.

Secret Service Group, between 1905 and 1945. Courtesy of the Library of Congress online.

 

In the late 1880s the Secret Service attended presidential inauguration to prevent bystanders from heckling or annoying the president. In 1884, part time protection was given to President Grover Cleveland, and in 1901, following the assassination of President William McKinley, Congress “informally requested” the presence of Secret Service security for the office of the President’s protection.[2] The following year the request was officially approved. The list of those who are protected by Secret Service also continued to expand. In 1913 the president-elect was added to the list, and the family of the president was added in 1917. The vice president was added in 1951, and following Robert Kennedy’s assassination in 1968 after winning the California primary, presidential and vice presidential candidates and nominees were included as well. The full list, outlining who receives the protection of the Secret Service can be found HERE. Presidents elected prior to 1997 receive lifetime protection, whereas a law passed in 1997 changed the limit of protection to ten years after leaving office unless they refuse protection prior to that. Former President Bill Clinton will be the last president to receive lifetime protection.

 

President and Mrs. Coolidge Leaving Church, courtesy of the Library of Congress online. (Look at the Secret Service Agent behind them - totally Bond-esque!)

President and Mrs. Coolidge Leaving First Congregational Church, 1925. Courtesy of the Library of Congress online. (Look at the Secret Service Agent behind them – totally Bond-esque!)

 

Today, President Obama has been guarded by the Secret Service since 2007, longer than any other president or candidate (Presidential Candidate Hillary Clinton already received protection because of her status as Former First Lady). Traditionally, the President picks his own codename, and his families follow the same alliteration. For example, President Obama goes by “Renegade,” Michelle is “Renaissance,” Malia is “Radiance” and Sasha is “Rosebud.”[3] The opportunity to pick your own codename has resulted in quite a few interesting ones over the year, some of which are discussed HERE. Bill Clinton used “Eagle,” and George W. Bush actually used both “Tumbler and “Trailblazer,” the first one being from when his father George H. W. Bush (“Timberwolf”) was president. John F. Kennedy was “Lance,” while his wife Jackie was “Lace.” Al Gore’s daughter, Karenna, was nineteen when her father became vice president, and chose the name “Smurfette,” which she claims continues to make her cringe.[4] So thanks to President Lincoln for his creation of the Secret Service, if you ever have the opportunity to receive their protection, make sure you pick a name you like because you could be hearing it for an extended period of time! Me, I think I’d like code name Flamingo, circa C.J. Cregg from West Wing.[5]


[1] “Ten Things You May Not Know About Abraham Lincoln,” History Channel Online. Accessed April 16, 2013. http://www.history.com/news/10-things-you-may-not-know-about-abraham-lincoln?cmpid=INT_Outbrain_HITH_HIS&obref=obnetwork

[2] “Secret Service History,” Secret Service, Accessed April 16, 2013. http://www.secretservice.gov/history.shtml

[3] “Eleven Great Secret Service Code Names,” Time Magazine Online, Accessed April 16, 2013. http://www.time.com/time/specials/packages/article/0,28804,1860482_1860481_1860422,00.html

[4] “Top Not-So-Secret Codenames,” ABC News online, Accessed April 16, 2013. http://abcnews.go.com/Politics/top-secret-service-codenames/story?id=15962814#7

[5] “The West Wing Wiki: Secret Service Codenames,” The West Wing Wiki, Accessed April 16, 2013. http://westwing.wikia.com/wiki/Secret_Sevice_Codenames