Author Kessler: Secret Service Leaving Presidents Unprotected

Thursday, 14 Aug 2014 05:12 PM

By Sean Piccoli

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The U.S. Secret Service hasn't learned enough from the assassination of President John F. Kennedy, and continues to cut corners in its primary mission of keeping White House occupants safe from harm, Ron Kessler, author of a new Secret Service exposé, "The First Family Detail," told Newsmax TV on Thursday.

"The agents are very brave and dedicated; they'll take a bullet for the president. But the Secret Service management has this culture of cutting corners and laxness that really does threaten the life of the president, according to the agents that I've talked to," Kessler, a New York Times bestselling author, told "MidPoint" host Ed Berliner.

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Kessler described a Secret Service that routinely caves to pressure from White House officials who value politics, optics, and access for presidential friends over safety and security — and from presidents themselves, "who think that they are going to live forever," he said.

In 1963, it was Kennedy refusing to let agents on the rear running board of the presidential limousine, said Kessler.

Today, it's officials letting a party-crashing couple, the Salahis, into a state dinner with President Barack Obama, or letting actor Bradley Cooper park his SUV right outside an Obama White House Correspondents Dinner.

"When White House staffs or campaign staffs pressure the Secret Service, they'll let people into events without … metal detection screening," said Kessler, likening the practice to letting airline passengers board without security checks.

Kessler said that when the actor Cooper attended the Correspondents Dinner — an annual media-elite hobnob whose highlight is a comedic speech from the commander in chief — he was all but waved through.

"A high-ranking Secret Service official ordered agents at the Washington Hilton to let Bradley Cooper and his SUV into the secure area in front of the [hotel] where only Secret Service cars were allowed — and even they had to be screened for explosives," said Kessler. "So someone could've introduced explosives into Bradley Cooper's SUV and taken out the president."

"You can imagine the impact this [order] had on the agents," said Kessler. "This says, 'We don't really care about security,' and leads to the problems we've seen more publicly with the Columbia prostitution scandal" involving Secret Service agents.

Kessler, who wrote the 2009 bestseller, "In The President's Secret Service," said the Obamas are well liked by the agents in their security detail.

"Michelle and Barack Obama treat their agents decently, with consideration, and that's certainly a good sign," said Kessler.

He compared that with President Jimmy Carter. Kessler called Carter "a total phony, pretending to be a jolly peanut-farmer populist."

Behind the scenes, Carter "would tell his agents he didn't want them to talk to him, didn't want them to say hello to him in the morning, would pretend to carry his own luggage in front of the cameras," said Kessler. " But, actually, when the cameras were gone he would give the luggage to aides to carry. Or the luggage was empty in the first place."

"So we're almost fools for believing these images that these politicians create for themselves, and in the end we suffer when we get disastrous presidents," said Kessler.

He also said that some members of Obama's security detail were "dismayed" to hear Michelle Obama routinely "urge her husband to be more aggressive in attacking Republicans and in siding with blacks in racial controversies."

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