When you see US secret service agents on Television or in movies, have you noticed that they’re forever touching their ears? Well, no less than one of our visitors did and invited me to find out why.
In the ‘Matrix’ movies, Agent Smith and co touched their ears to be able to better mimic the behaviour of actual secret service agents. Consequently it’s visibly a important trait of secret service agents, at least in America. It’s clearly something they have been doing for quite a while now. Then again, the ‘Agents’ also did it to better receive signals from the technology who ran the Matrix program itself…
Inside the real world (assuming, naturally, that this IS the real world hmmm….), the reason that FBI agents touch their ears is not that dissimilar. Forrest Wickham, of www.slate.com, has the answers:
Are those earpieces uncomfortable? No, it’s just so they can hear better. Pushing in an earpiece makes for a tighter seal, which could mean the difference between hearing or missing a Secret Service codename or another agent’s message about the president’s position while standing in a noisy room. While earpieces are not uncomfortable, they do sometimes come loose, requiring readjustment.
There you’ve got it, a rather pathetically lo-tech answer, secret service guys press on their earpieces into their ears as that makes the directions come through louder and clearer. Like an obsessive ‘Spinal Tap’ fan, I cannot help but echo the bemused query of Marti DiBergi and ask “why just make the earpieces louder?” but that’s obviously an issue for another time.
Back to, Mr. Wickham:
“Earpieces aren’t the only communication devices the Secret Service uses, and not all earpieces have the same design. Some devices, for example, look like iPod ear buds. The one-ear headphone often shown in the movies is standard and comes with a curly wire that runs down under their shirt to a hidden microphone worn in different locations depending on the circumstances of the assignment. One standard spot is just under the shirt sleeve. (That explains why agents are always lifting their wrists to their mouths.) Earpieces also come in different colors, and some agents choose a device that matches their skin or hair”.
So they do not take action to appear sinister, or to get instructions from the engine world that secretly runs all our existence. They do it as, well, their equipment is a little crappy, evidently.
However, I suppose that if you’re trying to hear very specific, essential information in the busy and loud environment, then any radio earpiece you used could be sternly challenged. It is hard to hear everything over the sound of large crowds as well.
Mr. Wickham also provides a bonus explanation. At the end of his article post, Wickham tells us why the FBI guys forever seem to be wearing sunglasses.
“Why are Secret Service agents always wearing sunglasses? To keep the sun out of their eyes. While the Service has often cultivated a certain mystique, preferring to remain “cloaked in silence and mystery,” spokesmen insist they wear shades merely for their traditional purpose, and not, say, to keep would-be assassins from knowing which way they’re looking. The Secret Service has no set uniform, but agents say that wearing sunglasses on a sunny day helps them to scan a crowd for suspicious behavior”.
Seems adequate to me.