What VIP Close Protection Staff Think Of Their Employers

VIP close protection staff

Close personal protection (CPP) is usually provided by police to government VIPs and occasionally to persons at risk from politically motivated violence. Celebrities also employ CPP or bodyguards who either have protective security backgrounds or are employees of security companies. They obviously have to work closely with those they protect and it often becomes a career job if they get on well with the person being protected.

I have known a few of them over the years. Discretion is an important part of the job, but there may be strong temptations to publish an insider’s account after the employment ends.

I went to school with one of them, Colin Trimming, who was a British police officer seconded to protect Prince Charles for almost 20 years. Colin threw himself in front of Charles in 1994 when David Kang leapt on to a stage in Sydney and fired a starter pistol to draw attention to the plight of Cambodian refugees. Colin did not know it was a starter pistol when he prepared to take a bullet for Prince Charles. Colin is now retired and has a grace and favour property in London allocated to him for his loyal service. Colin has never spoken about his experiences with Charles, nor has he written about them. The amount of time he spent with Charles destroyed Colin’s marriage but, in a nice romantic twist, he and his former wife have remarried since he retired.

By contrast, his CPP colleague, Inspector Ken Wharfe, who protected Princess Diana, would not have made himself at all popular with the British establishment with his book Diana: Closely Guarded Secret (2009). He was particularly critical of Prince Charles’ and the Royal Family’s treatment of Diana and what he saw as an ongoing establishment campaign to vilify her memory. Wharfe states that Charles’ continuing relationship with Camilla led to Diana’s affair with James Hewitt, but dispels the notion that Prince Harry could be Hewitt’s son.

Another talker was Special Branch officer Ron Evans, who was part of the Scotland Yard security detail ‘reluctantly’ protecting Salman Rushdie for over a decade. Rushdie had been the subject of a fatwa in 1989 by the Ayatollah Khomeini encouraging Muslims to kill Rushdie for his ‘blasphemous’ book The Satanic Verses. Evans had some very revealing things to say about Rushdie in his book On Her Majesty’s Service (2008). Evans describes Rushdie as nasty, tight-fisted and extremely arrogant, with poor personal hygiene. The book claims Rushdie made police pay him for staying overnight at his property to protect him. Rushdie took legal action against Evans for libel and won an apology; 4,000 copies of the book were pulped – although it is still available through Amazon.

There are inevitably many more leaks about the American First Family’s conduct and attitudes than there are about the British Royal Family’s. One reason is the large number of CPP officers involved in the American President’s Secret Service detail – more than 200 – and the regular turnover in First Families.

Leaked Secret Service quotes about the Clintons are of particular interest now that Hillary Clinton seems to be headed back to the White House. They include:

  • “Hillary Clinton was arrogant and orally abusive to her security detail. She forbade her daughter, Chelsea, from exchanging pleasantries with them.”
  • “Chelsea really was a nice, kindhearted and lovely young lady. The consensus opinion was that Chelsea loved her Mom but did not like her.”
  • “Hillary Clinton was continuously rude and abrasive to those who were charged to protect her life. Her security detail dutifully did their job, as professionals should, but they all loathed her, and wanted to be on a different detail. Hillary Clinton was despised by the Secret Service as a whole.”
  • President Clinton’s security detail “uniformly believed him to be disingenuous, false and that he did nothing without a motive that in some way would enhance his image and political career. He was polite, but not kind. They did not particularly like him and nobody trusted him.”
  • “Former President Bill Clinton was much more amiable than his wife. Often, the Secret Service would cringe at the verbal attacks Hillary would use against her husband. They were embarrassed for his sake, by the manner and frequency in which she verbally insulted him, sometimes in the presence of the Secret Service, and sometimes behind closed doors.”
  • Another comment was, “I have a relative in the Air Force who told me that the unofficial designation of any plane that Hillary was on was ‘Broomstick One’.”

By contrast, the Secret Service assignment to protect Laura Bush (the wife of President George W Bush) was a popular one. “Without exception, they concede that she is perhaps the nicest, and most kind person they have ever had the privilege of serving.” Likewise, the Secret Service considered George W Bush to be “a gem of a man to work for”. “He always treats them with genuine respect, and he always trusts and listens to their expert advice. They really like the Crawford, Texas detail. Every time the President goes to Crawford he has a Bar-B-Q for his security detail, and he helps serve their meals.”

Other reported Secret Service comments about US presidents were that “Nixon, Bush (Senior), and Carter never cheated on their wives. Clinton cheated, but couldn’t match Kennedy or LBJ in style or variety. Kennedy had Marilyn Monroe flown in for secret ‘dates’, and LBJ was a typical Texas ‘good ole boy’ womanizer.”

A book written by respected investigative journalist Ronald Kessler titled In the President’s Secret Service: Behind the Scenes with Agents in the Line of Fire and the Presidents They Protect (2010) has substantiating Secret Service anecdotes about many of the presidents and their families:

  • President Kennedy “was a strange man. He was usually pleasant and polite but was a philanderer of the worst sort. He’d fly Marilyn Monroe in for a romp then send her back on the next flight.”
  • President Johnson was “another philanderer of the highest order. In addition, LBJ was as rude and crude as the day is long. LBJ ran a lot of women through the White House in his extramarital affairs.”
  • Kessler notes that President Nixon “was a personally moral man, but very odd, weird, paranoid, etc. He had a horrible relationship with his family, and in many ways was almost a recluse. Mrs. Nixon was a quiet woman.”
  • President Ford was “a true gentleman who treated the Secret Service with respect and cordiality. He had a great sense of humor.”
  • President Carter was “a phony who would portray one picture of himself to the public but who was very different in private… He would have himself photographed carrying his own luggage, but the suitcases were empty.”
  • President Reagan was “the real deal: moral, honest, respectful, and dignified…Thanked people even for little things. He took the time to know everyone on a personal level. On cold nights he would bring cups of hot chocolate himself to agents on the roof of the White House.”
  • President George H Bush and Barbara Bush were “extremely kind and considerate. Always respectful. They took great care in making sure the agents’ needs were taken care of. They even brought them meals, etc.”
  • On President Clinton, “for him the Presidency was one giant party – but he wasn’t trustworthy. He was amiable because he wanted people to like him, but to him life was just one big game and party. Everyone knew of his promiscuity.”
  • Kessler’s reporting echoed the earlier negative comments about Hillary Clinton. “She was another phony. Her personality would change the instant that cameras were near. She detested, with undisguised contempt, the military and Secret Service…”
  • President Obama was described as “egotistical, cunning and untrustworthy. He’ll look you in the eye and appear to agree with you, then turn around and do the exact opposite. He has temper tantrums.”

So far there have been no leaks from Trump’s protective staff about what they think of him. As a presidential candidate, Donald Trump is not officially accorded Secret Service protection. (Hillary Clinton is entitled to Secret Service protection for life as a former First Lady.) Trump has long had his own personally employed security detail, headed for 17 years by Keith Schiller, a fiercely loyal former New York Police Department detective.

Clearly, VIPs need to choose their protective staff with care; and treat them with respect if they want to be remembered favourably.

Clive Williams
Clive Williams is a visiting professor at the ANU’s Centre for Military and Security Law and an adjunct professor at ADFA