How the Secret Service plans to keep President Biden safe in Israel: ANALYSIS
Biden's visit comes as Israel faces dual combat fronts.
President Joe Biden's planned visit to Israel this week will come just 10 days after Hamas terrorists launched an unprecedented attack on the country, killing 1,400 Israelis and injuring thousands more.
Amid the escalating crisis, over 3,500 people have been killed in Gaza and another 12,500 were injured in retaliatory strikes from Israeli forces, according to the Palestinian Ministry of Health. At least 500 people were killed Tuesday after a missile strike hit a hospital in the middle of Gaza. The Israeli Defense Forces and Palestinian officials have blamed each other for the strike.
After the attack by Hamas at the southern border with the Gaza Strip, the terrorist group Hezbollah also commenced attacks into Israel in the north, making the entire nation of Israel an active combat zone. These dual combat fronts make almost the entire nation within range of rocket attacks -- which the President of the United States is now visiting.
Biden is "coming here at a critical moment for Israel, for the region and for the world," Secretary of State Antony Blinken said Monday from Tel Aviv in announcing the president's visit. Earlier Monday, Blinken had been rushed to a bunker by his diplomatic security service agents for several minutes after rocket sirens went off in Tel Aviv, punctuating the war footing the area is on.
Presidential visits into active combat zones are not rare and have occurred since the time of Abraham Lincoln. In most cases though, those visits have occurred in secret with no warning that the president was coming. In modern times, the visits of former Presidents George W. Bush, Barack Obama and Donald Trump to war zones in Iraq and Afghanistan have all occurred via covert means, executed by agents of the U.S. Secret Service.
The public announcement of Biden's visit to what can be viewed as an active combat zone is rare and can add an increased risk due to the telegraphing of the visit timeframe.
To handle this, the Secret Service, will have to work with White House staff, agents of the Diplomatic Security Service, the U.S. Embassy and in this case, their foreign counterparts -- Shin Bet, Israel's security agency. Shin Bet, in addition to their counter-terrorism duties, handle the protective functions for Israel's prime minister and president, who will surely be under the same security bubble when President Biden visits.
This counterpart system is what the Secret Service uses around the world to ensure that each and every presidential visit occurs safely.
Typically, whether a covert or overt visit, the Secret Service agents will plan out every step of the visit with their counterparts and work on risk mitigation measures via its protective methodology, to reduce the risks during the visit. This process typically starts anywhere from five days to two weeks before a visit.
Presidential visits are typically planned by staff first who then bring in the Secret Service to address the security needs. For visits that have enhanced security needs or threats like the type of trip President Biden is taking this week, the visit planning would have included the Secret Service from the start.
The Secret Service has taken presidents in the past to both Israel and the West Bank, which is governed by the Palestinian Liberation Organization. These visits are unique because even in peaceful conditions, threats loom over this entire region. The threats often emanate from outside of this area and can be traced to other terrorist organizations and nation states.
Working with the U.S. military, particularly with Air Force One and the Marine Helicopter Squadron One, will be integral for the Secret Service's planning of travel logistics to the region. Secret Service agents will coordinate with these units on air security around the military aircraft transporting President Biden as well as the contingency plan in case of the need to evacuate him from the area.
The Secret Service's Protective Intelligence unit works closely with both U.S. and foreign intelligence agencies to identify, investigative and mitigate any negative intelligence focused on the presidential visit. That mitigation may come in the form of kinetic or passive protective measures that are put in place before and during a visit.
While the Protective Intelligence agents are working on threats, those agents on the ground, known as the Advance team, are working on instituting protective mitigation measures that will be necessary to keep a presidential visit safe, which is why it’s not surprising that the U.S. Navy has sent a carrier strike group with two aircraft carriers into the eastern Mediterranean near Israel.
Due to the rocket threat, air security will be a pronounced need. The Secret Service Airspace Security Branch in the Special Operations Division will be tasked with working with Israeli and well as American military forces to ensure an air security bubble is placed over a presidential site and that countermeasures like the Iron Dome air defense system are moved into close proximity to the visit location and if needed, supplemented by American resources.
Under that same umbrella, the Secret Service's Counter Assault Team will work with both Israeli and U.S. Special Forces to create a tactical plan that can address any attack, assault or event where an emergency action is necessary to protect the president.
Of course, while the Secret Service agents are trying to put the security for the visit together, they will have to be cognizant of their own security as they are all potential targets for terrorists or an indiscriminate attack while in a combat zone. Despite the danger, their primary mission is to ensure that, no matter what, the president is always safe.
Donald J. Mihalek is an ABC News contributor, retired senior Secret Service agent and regional field training instructor who served during two presidential transitions. He was also a police officer and served in the U.S. Coast Guard.
US Rep. Lauren Boebert's son facing possible felony charges in string of vehicle break-ins
- Feb 28, 11:34 AM
ABC News Live
24/7 coverage of breaking news and live events