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Secret Service Colombia scandal: Agents working too hard, or not hard enough?

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The scandal may be one of the largest for the buttoned-up agency that’s known for its sunglasses-and-earpiece wearing men who protect the president, vice president, other top US officials, and visiting dignitaries. But it comes just two years after about 100 agents dished dirt about their jobs and the people they’ve protected over the years in “In the President’s Secret Service,” former Post reporter Ronald Kessler’s gossipy peek into the Secret Service’s inner workings.

 The scandal also comes at a proving time for the agency, which is dealing both with a boom in cyber-crime – its ancillary responsibility – and growing perceptions of threats against senior US officials, all on top of protecting the first black US president, who receives a steady dose of death threats.

"Once Obama became president," Kessler wrote in his book, "the Secret Service experienced a 400 percent increase in the number of threats against the president, in comparison with President Bush."

Created by President Abraham Lincoln to tackle counterfeiting, the US Secret Service began protecting presidents in 1901, and its role has continued to evolve, especially after 9/11, when it was moved from the Treasury Department to DHS. The constant expansion of mandated protectees by Congress has complicated the agency’s mission, according to the Congressional Research Service, which has suggested Congress consider splitting the agency in two in order to refine its investigative and protective missions.

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