Can the secret service force the president to evacuate?

On an episode of 24 there is a bioterror scare but the president does not want to leave the city. The ss agent informs him that he does not have a choice b/c they have invoke a section of the law that allows them to compel him to evacuate. Is this true?

The SS roles up under the Executive branch via the Department of Homeland Security so the POTUS could find a way to get the SS to leave him alone if it meant firing their bosses. In reality, Presidents have enough sense to let the SS do their thing. On 9/11, they didn’t asked Bush where he felt like going. The just took him to Air Force One and fly him straight to Barksdale Air Force Base. Cheney was reportedly in a meeting and they just ran in and carried him out without asking him how he felt about it.

A more interesting question is what would happen if a President tried something stupid like riding around in a convertible in Iraq. The SS agents have a sworn duty to protect the President with their lives and a strong argument can be made that they are protecting the office itself rather than an individual person.

Probably less germaine to this discussion, an episode of The West Wing dealt with that situation exactly (second part of “In The Shadow Of Two Gunmen”, IIRC) . The President wanted to walk somewhere in the open, one of his adviosrs was against it, and the head of the secret service detail said, “You tell us what you want, and we’ll make it work.”

I tend to think in real life it would be the same way. The Secret Service will make their recommendation, and it is balanced against what the President believes he needs to do. He’s got a bunch of advisors, and I believe that the President will eventually come to the conclusion that driving through Iraq in a convertible was dumb, but also the Secret Service would expend what would be required to get it done if it was determined to be absolutely necessary.

They didn’t rush in and pull Bush out of that classroom. One agent walked in a whispered something in his ear and he decided to remain there. He didn’t leave the school until he decided too. Cheney was rushed because they were afraid a plane would crash into the White House in a few minutes.

I agree with Sean. But in an every-second-counts crisis, the Secret Service will grab the President, even if he protests, and move him to where they want him to go to assure at least his temporary safety. Reagan’s senior USSS agent pushed him into the limo hard the moment he realized that the President was under fire outside the Washington Hilton in March 1981, for instance. See the assassination attempt near the end of In the Line of Fire (great movie, BTW) for a fictional (but accurate, from all I’ve read) example of this.

Going back to the OP, I don’t know of a law that allows the SS to force a president to do anything. Maybe some of our lawyers can correct me if I’m wrong.

What are the limits and constraints, then? Nobody knows until they’re brought up in a real world situation.


Note definition 2 (intransitive verb):

Main Entry: evac·u·ate
Pronunciation: \i-ˈva-kyə-ˌwāt, -kyü-ˌāt\
Function: verb
Inflected Form(s): evac·u·at·ed; evac·u·at·ing
Etymology: Middle English, to draw off morbid humors, from Latin evacuatus, past participle of evacuare to empty, from e- + vacuus empty
Date: 15th century
transitive verb
1: to remove the contents of : empty
2: to discharge from the body as waste : void
3: to remove something (as gas or water) from especially by pumping
4 a: to remove especially from a military zone or dangerous area b: to withdraw from military occupation of c: vacate <were ordered to evacuate the building>
intransitive verb
1: to withdraw from a place in an organized way especially for protection
2: to pass urine or feces from the body

Can the secret service force the president to do this? doubtful. But there are many who contend that the president is full of it and needs to have it done.

I thought of the show, too. I can’t remember whether it was the same episode, but there was a point at which something dangerous happened, and the VP was in a grip-and-grin with some college sports team. The SS marched in and said, “Come with us.” as they scooped him up. They didn’t seem to spend any time wondering whether he liked it. 'Course, that’s TV.

Did that change recently? I thought that the Secret Service was under the Treasury Department…

Yep, I’m a bit behind- from Wiki-

I never said that Bush was picked up like Cheney was because that wouldn’t fit the situation at hand. The “decided to” part is incorrect as I will show below. This is actually a good example. on 9/11, as soon as Bush was notified, the wheels of the national security system were already turning.

  1. The SS knows something very bad is happening

  2. They notify Bush. There is no reason to leave the school in Florida as fast as possible like Cheney had to because he was at least as safe there as anywhere else.

  3. The end of the world disaster plans are reviewed for relevant scenarios.

  4. The crew of the active 747 Air Force One are prepped for their destination which iis Barksdale Air Force base in Bossier City, Louisiana. Not too many people in the general public no much about Barksdale. It is headquarters to the B-52 bomber fleet but it also held the highest concentration of nuclear weapons in the world during the Cold War and has its own end of the world nuclear command center as government relocation facilities. A recent accident of shipping a live nuke between Minot, ND and Barksdale suggests that it is still very nuclear live. Cheyenne Mountain gets more press but Barksdale has the real ammunition.

  5. Bush boards a plane for Barksdale and arrives to meet Generals who have already raised their DEFCON Level to somewhere between 1 and 3 but that can’t be known.

6)Meanwhile, American and Canadian Air Traffic Controllers are executing their end of the world scenarios and doing an outstanding job of diverting over 4500 flights over the U.S. and Canada at a peak rate of one a second and putting them wherever they can fit them. They have U.S. airspace almost completely cleared within 2 hours with the bulk of the planes landed within 45 minutes.

  1. All other national defense systems are ramped up and procedures put in place.

The point of all of this is that it would be very hard for a President to just give everyone and everything the finger and order them to take him to Washington during a national emergency just because that is what he prefers.

You haven’t demonstrated this in the least bit. If Bush had decided to give everyone the finger and say fly me to Washington, they would have flown him to Washington.

I seem to recall that Bush insisted on being back in the White House that night, against the advice of the Secret Service.

You haven’t demonstrated that the least bit… How do you know that?

My point was that the POTUS is not the dictator of the United States and does not control the entire federal government nor own Washington D.C… Thousands of people from the military to bureaucrats work on these plans to assure the successful defense of the country every single day and have those plans in place when needed. They execute them without the president’s explicit approval when needed and the POTUS is expected to follow them.

Why would the President insist on going to the White House when military officers and possibly key members of Congress (a completely separate branch of government) are somewhere else because they followed their prescribed plans? That is just speculation about a mad dictator with delusional tendencies. I could speculate just as easily Congress would declare him unfit for office within hours and the Vice President would take his place.

This is well outside the realm of realism and the consequences of a POTUS deciding to sleep in Lincoln’s bedroom rather than take care of business elsewhere are both infinite and academic.

While these steps describe what did happen and what is likely to happen, they are irrelevant to the question of what could happen if the president had ordered others to behave differently. It would not take a a mad dictator for a president to feel that his presence in Washington would be of critical importance.

I hope this is not a sample of your reasonable speculations, because only the vice president and a majority of the Cabinet can declare a president unfit for office. Congress plays no role under current law.

I distinctly remember reading shortly afterwards that Bush insisted on going back to the White House that night to address the nation, overruling the advice of the Secret Service. So that’s where they took him. As it was, he took a little flak from some pundits for meandering around on Air Force One instead of going back to Washington directly. Hate him as I do, I don’t blame him for that.

And BTW, it was then-White House chief of staff Andrew Card who whispered in Bush’s ear at the Florida school, and not a Secret Service agent.

Yeah, so?