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Threats against Obama: Michael Stephen Bowden is just the latest

Nearly 1 in 10 US presidents have been assassinated or wounded in office. The Secret Service has made more than a dozen arrests in the past two years for threats against Obama. Retiree Michael Stephen Bowden is the latest.

By Staff writer / November 26, 2010

The arrest of former New York City cop Michael Stephen Bowden for telling a Secret Service agent he'd like to put President Obama up against a wall and shoot him underscores the daily threat matrix for a job that is much more dangerous than, say, the harrowing experience of Bering Sea fishermen as dramatized on the popular TV show "The Deadliest Catch."

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Nearly 1 in 10 presidents have been assassinated or shot while in office (the last being Ronald Reagan, in 1981), with another 11 escaping assassination attempts unscathed.

The Secret Service has been particularly busy chasing down threats to Mr. Obama, who faced a barrage of death threats and at least one credible assassination plot while a presidential candidate and since taking office in January 2009.

Last summer, author Ron Kessler wrote that Obama was receiving 30 death threats a day. Other reports state that federal agents had seen a 400-fold increase in threats from President George W. Bush's last year in office. Secret Service head Mark Sullivan later pushed back at that assertion, saying "threats are not up" in the Obama era.

Nevertheless, in the past two years the Secret Service has arrested more than a dozen Americans for posing credible threats to the president. Because of concerns about his safety, candidate Obama received Secret Service protection earlier than any other presidential hopeful in US history. The Secret Service doesn't publicize most threats, fearing that they could inspire copycat attempts.

The most famous Obama assassination plot involved two neo-Nazi skinheads in Tennessee, who were accused in late 2008 of planning to shoot 88 black people, behead another 14, and then kill Obama. Both men pleaded guilty this year to charges of conspiring to kill Obama.

According to the law, "Whoever knowingly and willfully deposits for conveyance in the mail or for a delivery from any post office or by any letter carrier any letter, paper, writing, print, missive, or document containing any threat to take the life of, to kidnap, or to inflict bodily harm upon the President of the United States ... shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than five years, or both."

Vermont comedian Chris King was arrested Oct. 8 for tweeting: "I am dying inside. And I am plainly stating to you that I am going to kill the president.” Such "death tweets" on the social media network Twitter have figured in several high-profile threat arrests.


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