When President Obama and two-thirds of the world’s leaders gather in New York City, it is up to the U.S. Secret Service to keep them all safe. Granted unprecedented access, our author tells the story of how the agency pulls off the most complicated security event of the year, from counter-surveillance to counter-assault, hotel booking to event scheduling.
Marc Ambinder in The Atlantic:
There have been 38 “National Special Security Events” since President Clinton first coined the term in a classified 1998 national-security directive. Most of these NSSEs have occurred since September 11, 2001, and 14 of them since 2007, including the two presidential conventions, President-elect Obama’s pre-inauguration whistle-stop train tour, the inauguration itself, and the 2008 and 2009 G-20 summits. The General Assembly poses greater security and logistical challenges than many, if not most, of these events. This is due in part to its size, and in part to the fact that habit is the worst enemy of protective security, and the assembly offers an extremely attractive, recurring target: many foreign leaders stay in the same hotels and attend the same events at the same times each year. But despite all this, the General Assembly has not been categorized as an NSSE since 2001. The Secret Service has it down to a science.
This is the story of a dog that didn’t bark, and of the men and women who kept it muzzled. The Secret Service receives dozens of requests each year from reporters who want a peek inside the agency; most are quickly turned down. Typically, the service provides context for media coverage of its major security events by opening its training facility in Beltsville, Maryland. There, it can put on a show—complete with motorcades and simulated attacks—in a tightly controlled environment. It took me more than 18 months to persuade the service to let me be the first reporter to see the process from the inside in a real-world, real-time situation.