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Secret Service cutting corners: Kessler

Last Updated: Monday, November 30, 2009 - 23:43

Washington: The US Secret Service has been
accused of cutting corner by a top investigative journalist,
who feared it is only a matter of time "before there is an
assassination."

"I have interviewed over 100 current or former Secret
Service agents, as well as the people at headquarters, and the
belief is that it`s just a matter of time before there is an
assassination because of the corner-cutting that I detail in
the book," Ron Kessler, author of `In the President`s Secret
Service` told NBC "Today" in an interview.

In his book released in August, Kessler said in recent
years the management of the agency "has betrayed its mission
by cutting corners, risking the assassination of President
Barack Obama, Vice President Joe Biden, and their families."

Terming it as another "government scandal" Kessler said
"You know, you can`t understand it, but it`s going on."

The journalist also charged the White House aides during
former President Bush`s tenure for allowing easy access to
people.

"Bush White House aides would pressure them to let people
in at events, and sometimes they would even put people through
magnetometers but turn them off so that, even if there was a
weapon, no alarm would sound. I mean, I know that sounds
unbelievable, but this is what`s been going on," he said.

Citing an example he said, "When Dick Cheney`s daughter
Mary insisted that Secret Service agents take her friends to
restaurants and the Secret Service objected because that`s not
their job, she got the detail leader removed. So the
management did not back the agents, who were doing their job."

Kessler said last week`s lapse where an uninvited couple
breached the security to attend the State Dinner at the White
House is part of a systematic problem with the Secret Service.

"The Secret Service has been cutting corners ever since
Homeland Security took it over in 2003. And, for example, they
don`t do magnetometer screening at some events or they`ll shut
it down early under pressure from staffs. They`re very
sensitive to not offending political staffs or the White
House," he said.

Meanwhile, the ABC news reported that the Virginia couple
– Tareq and Michaele Salahi – were cleared at the initial
White House checkpoint assuming that their names would be
checked against a guest list at the next one.

"The couple proceeded through the first checkpoint and
continued several hundred yards to a second screening station,
where their names should have been checked but apparently were
not. The Secret Service says here the Salahis went through a
metal detector and were checked for weapons,” the ABC
reported.

"Those people could have had an outstanding arrest
warrant or could have been involved with a terrorist group.
They are taking a tremendous risk with the life of the
President of the United States," Kessler was quoted as saying
by ABC news channel.

Bureau Report

First Published: Monday, November 30, 2009 - 23:43

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