Lewis C. Merletti was the 19th Director of the United States Secret Service. He succeeded Eljay B. Bowron, and was sworn in on June 6, 1997, by the Secretary of the Treasury Robert Rubin. A 25-year veteran of the United States Secret Service, Merletti has also served as Assistant Director in the Office of Training, and as the Special Agent in Charge of the Presidential Protection Division.
Merletti was born in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. He attended Central Catholic High School and Duquesne University, in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, where he received a B.A. degree in political science. He is currently employed as the Senior Vice President for the Cleveland Browns.
Merletti enlisted in the United States Army in 1967. He served for three years, including a tour of duty as a Special Forces medic in Vietnam with the 5th Special Forces Group, A-502, Airborne. He earned numerous military honors including the Bronze Star, Certificate of Achievement of Meritorious Performance, Combat Medical Badge, Good Conduct Medal, and Parachute Wings.
In 1974, Merletti joined the Secret Service as a special agent assigned to the Philadelphia Field Office. Throughout his tenure with the agency he served for Presidents Gerald Ford, Jimmy Carter, Ronald Reagan, George H. W. Bush, and Bill Clinton. He also held the position of Special Agent in Charge of Presidential protection during the Clinton Administration, which made him responsible for protecting the physical security of the President and First Family. He was also in charge of supervising security arrangements for the visit of the President to dangerous environments such as Israel, Syria, Kuwait, and Saudi Arabia during Operation Desert Shield.
During the Clinton impeachment trial in 1998, while Merletti was Director of the Secret Service, Independent Counsel Kenneth W. Starr's prosecutors requested that numerous Secret Service agents testify in the investigation of President Clinton's relationship with Monica Lewinsky. "Merletti argued strongly against this, saying "As law enforcement officers, Secret Service agents would proactively report any crime that they witnessed, however, Secret Service agents assigned to the Presidential Protective Detail should not be subpoenaed as part of a 'fishing expedition.' It is my firm belief, as Director of the United States Secret Service, that using Secret Service protective personnel as witnesses concerning non-criminal activities of a President will substantially undermine, if not destroy, the relationship of trust and confidence that must exist between the Secret Service and the President in order for the Secret Service to successfully fulfill its mission. If our Presidents do not have complete trust in the Secret Service personnel who protect them, they may push away the Service's "protective envelope," thereby making them more vulnerable to assassination."
On May 22, Chief U.S. District Judge Norma Holloway Johnson ruled that since the Secret Service employees are part of the federal law enforcement establishment sworn to assist in criminal investigations, they must testify. The Secret Service appealed her decision and the case eventually made its way to the Supreme Court where the Secret Service lost in a split decision. Scores of Secret Service agents then testified before Starr's Independent Counsel. In the end, Starr and his Independent Counsel were frustrated to learn that the rumor and innuendo that they had been led to believe regarding the Secret Service's involvement with the Lewinsky issue was totally unfounded. The Independent Counsel remarked that the Secret Service turned out to be "a dry well." Merletti felt vindicated and remarked, "It was the fight that mattered, future Presidents would have faith in the Secret Service's motto of being 'Worthy of trust and confidence'." [10/17/2007 statement by United States Secret Service Director Lewis C. Merletti]
His son Mike is in the United States Army, an Airborne Ranger Captain serving with the 101st Airborne Division. His son Matt plays Safety for the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill football team. Matt is a former ballboy of the Cleveland Browns (where Merletti was a senior vice president for the Cleveland Browns of the NFL. It was in Cleveland where Merletti first met Butch Davis, then head coach of the Cleveland Browns.