Secret Service cutting corners: Kessler
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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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