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Secret Service Agents Stake Out the Ugliest Corners of the Internet

Jul 25

HughPickens.com writes: Josephine Wolff reports at The Atlantic that Secret Service Internet Threat Desk is a group of agents tasked with identifying and assessing online threats to the president and his family. The first part of this mission — finding threats — is in many ways made easier by the Internet: all you have to do is search! Pulling up every tweet which uses the words “Obama” and “assassinate” takes mere seconds, and the Secret Service has tried to make it easier for people to draw threats to its attention by setting up its own Twitter handle, @secretservice, for users to report threatening messages to. The difficulty is trying to figure out which ones should be taken seriously.

The Secret Service categorizes all threats, online and offline alike, into one of three categories. Class 3 threats are considered the most serious, and require agents to interview the individual who issued the threat and any acquaintances to determine whether that person really has the capability to carry out the threat. Class 2 threats are considered to be serious but issued by people incapable of actually follow up on their intentions, either because they are in jail or located at a great distance from the president. And Class 1 threats are those that may seem serious at first, but are determined not to be. The overall number of threats directed at the first family that require investigation has stayed relatively steady at about 10 per day — except for the period when Obama was first elected, when the Secret Service had to follow up on roughly 50 threats per day. “That includes threats on Twitter,” says Ronald Kessler, author of In the President’s Secret Service. “It makes no difference to [the Secret Service] how a threat is communicated. They can’t take that chance of assuming that because it’s on Twitter it’s less serious.”


Read more of this story at Slashdot.

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