AUTHOR'S NOTE: My thanks toDana T. Conley, my research assistant, who was very helpful in assembling some of the material on which this article is based, and to Barry O'Neill, who read the manuscript with a critical eye and many useful comments and suggestions.
The Contemporary Presidency: Presidential Safety, Prosecutorial Zeal, and Judicial Blunders: The Protective Function Privilege
Article first published online: 21 APR 2004
Presidential Studies Quarterly
Volume 31, Issue 2, pages 323–337, June 2001
How to Cite
ABRAMS, H. L. (2001), The Contemporary Presidency: Presidential Safety, Prosecutorial Zeal, and Judicial Blunders: The Protective Function Privilege. Presidential Studies Quarterly, 31: 323–337. doi: 10.1111/j.0360-4918.2001.00173.x
- Issue published online: 21 APR 2004
- Article first published online: 21 APR 2004
- Cited By
During the Clinton-Lewinsky episode of 1998, the independent prosecutor issued subpoenas to Secret Service agents to force them to testify. Presidential safety was at the heart of the debate that followed. The Treasury Department asserted a protective function privilege, whereby the agents could maintain confidentiality and thereby preserve the president's trust and decrease his tendency to distance himself. The courts rejected the privilege on the grounds that there was no precedent, that the agents were federal officials with a duty to testify, and that no harm would follow the president. In their decisions, the courts blurred the margins of separation and devalued the opinions of the experts–the Secret Service director and all prior living heads of the agency. To safeguard future presidents, the best recourse for the nation is legislative enactment of a protective function privilege, which would preserve confidentiality between the president and the agents who guard him.