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Inside The Secret Service

In his first TV interview since becoming Secret Service director, Brian Stafford talks to CBS News Correspondent Mark Knoller about the problems facing one of the most prestigious law enforcement agencies in America.

It's been a rough year-and-a-half for the U.S. Secret Service. It lost a big fight in the Supreme Court stemming from the Monica Lewinsky mess. It was embarrassed by disclosures that former agents made about the private life of John F. Kennedy.

And it had to deal with stepped-up threats against a president overseeing the Kosovo air war.

"Yes it did. The increase in threats have been up recently," says Stafford. "But again, the security Â… normally, we don't change, we prepare for the worst every day."

But being personally responsible for the safety of the president is a job that takes a toll.

"You can only do it so long, that experience can consume you," he says. "We don't leave our people there for an extended period of time."

Stafford is now trying to repair some of the damage done to his agency as a result of the Monica Lewinsky scandal. The Supreme Court ruled against the Secret Service in its effort to protect its agents and officers from having to testify about the president's relationship with Lewinsky before Kenneth Starr's grand jury.

"When there's a new president," says Stafford, "if they don't trust us, they don't have confidence in us, then we won't be able to do our job well and they will push us back."

Stafford says he'll urge Congress to exempt Secret Service personnel from having to testify about what they see and hear in the course of protecting the president.

Stafford is also determined to stop former agents from telling the secrets they know about the presidents they protect, like the ones who went public about John F. Kennedy's womanizing at the White House.

Now he's thinking about making new personnel sign an oath of silence.

"In over 100 years, we never felt that there was a need to do that," he says. "It was just a code that we all thought and felt very strongly about, and didn't feel that we had to reduce it to paper. But we are now."

Other big challenges lie ahead for Stafford as the Secret Service plans its strategy for protecting candidates in next year's presidential campaign and insuring security at the national political conventions next summer.