Source: North American Review
Source type: magazine
Document type: article
Document title: “Detective Surveillance of Anarchists”
Author(s): Pinkerton, Robert A.
Date of publication: November 1901
Volume number: 173
Issue number: 540
Pagination: 609-17 (excerpt below includes only pages 609-10)
|Pinkerton, Robert A. “Detective Surveillance of Anarchists.” North American Review Nov. 1901 v173n540: pp. 609-17.|
|presidents (protection); assassination (preventative measures); Secret Service (criticism); anarchism (dealing with).|
|Leon Czolgosz; William McKinley.|
|“By Robert A. Pinkerton, one of the heads of the Pinkerton National Detective Agency.”|
Detective Surveillance of Anarchists [excerpt]
The great trouble with our National Government Detective Service to-day is that politics figure largely in the appointments, and this must result in a lack of efficiency and discipline wherever they take up investigations of plottings by anarchists.
It is perhaps too late to discuss the terrible calamity of President McKinley’s assassination, but it points such a strong moral that the circumstances surrounding it ought not to be lost sight of. With a properly trained and disciplined force of protectors for the President on that day, I believe the tragedy might have been prevented. The first principle of Police guardianship, such as was entrusted to those guarding the President, is to watch the hands of all comers. This is a police axiom that is supposed to be drilled into the minds of all men who have to do this class of work. The hand is the machine and the only machine with which damage can be inflicted. Whether a man is to throw a bomb, or to use a knife, or to fire a pistol, whatever the means of assault, it must be carried out with the hand. Therefore, supervise and control the hands of people surrounding the person to be guarded, and you take a long step toward protecting that person from harm.
Where assassination is intended, it is impossible to guarantee absolute protection. A man may be “picked off” with a rifle at a less or greater distance, or he may be fired on from above while  passing through the streets, or beneath a balcony, or a mine may be exploded under him, but against such an assault as was committed on President McKinley by the anarchist, Czolgosz, it is, I believe, possible to guard absolutely with careful, quick-witted men, fully instructed as to their duties, who, although there may be no apprehension of danger in the minds of the general public, are there at all times ever on the alert for just such an attack as that at Buffalo. It would seem that the guards in attendance upon the President that fateful day should have halted Czolgosz the very minute they noticed him in the line with a covered hand, especially a covered right hand. If the hand was really an injured one, no great commotion need have resulted from the act of halting him, but had a concealed weapon been disclosed, as it doubtless would have been at Buffalo, the disturbance arising from the assassin’s being discovered would probably have saved the President’s life. One minute’s inspection would have revealed the assassin’s intent and at least an effort would have been made to make him harmless.
The heads of our Government Secret Service, as a rule, have been men of standing and efficiency; their work heretofore has mainly been the suppression of counterfeiting and frauds against the Government. Appropriations have been too small for what was expected of them, and they have been greatly handicapped by being obliged to appoint their subordinates on political recommendations from men with but little or no experience to fit them for this important service.
There is no intention of, in any way, impugning the present Chief of the United States Secret Service, who, although not having been previously engaged in Police or Detective Service, has proven his capability for the position he holds, but the department of which he is the head has had but very little to do with anarchists, and, as at present organized, I do not believe it would be in a condition to handle this important problem. It would require a thorough reorganization, a large increase in the present force, no little legislation, and a large additional appropriation before much could be done toward controlling or eradicating the dangerous anarchists we have here now as well as those who are coming here in greater or less numbers at all times, and who, of late years, have seemed to do most of their plotting in this country.