Secret Service agents act as human surveillance cameras and observe everything that goes on behind the scenes in the president’s inner circle. New York Times bestselling author and award-winning reporter Ronald Kessler reveals what they have seen, providing startling, previously untold stories about presidents from John F. Kennedy, Lyndon Johnson, and Richard Nixon to Bill Clinton, George W. Bush, and Barack Obama, as well as about their vice presidents, families, Cabinet officers, and White House aides.
In his new book, IN THE PRESIDENT'S SECRET SERVICE: BEHIND THE SCENES WITH AGENTS IN THE LINE OF FIRE AND THE PRESIDENT'S THEY PROTECT, Kessler penetrated the wall of secrecy that surrounds the U.S. Secret Service, that elite corps of agents who pledge to take a bullet to protect the president and his family. Kessler portrays the dangers that agents face, how they carry out their mission, how they are trained, how they spot and assess potential threats, and much more.
IN THE PRESIDENT'S SECRET SERVICE discloses assassination attempts that have never before been revealed. Kessler shares insider accounts of past assaults that have put the Secret Service to the test, including a heroic gun battle that took down the would-be assassins of Harry S. Truman, the devastating day that John F. Kennedy was killed in Dallas, and the swift actions that saved Ronald Reagan after he was shot. Kessler also exposes how Secret Service management in recent years has betrayed its mission by cutting corners, risking the assassination of President Barack Obama, Vice President Joe Biden, and future presidential candidates.
Based on exclusive interviews with more than 100 current and former Secret Service agents, IN THE PRESIDENT’S SECRET SERVICE reveals:
• Since Barack Obama took office, threats against the president have been up as much as 400 percent from about 3,000 threats a year against President Bush. A new chapter in the paperback edition reveals that the level of threats has become so disturbing that a secret Presidential Threat Task Force has been established within the FBI's National Security Branch to gather, track, and evaluate assassination threats related to domestic or international terrorism.
• Because the Secret Service has been cutting corners since its absorption by the Homeland Security Department, when Vice President Joe Biden threw the first pitch at the first Baltimore Orioles game of the 2009 season, the Secret Service did not screen any of the more than 40,000 fans, stunning agents on his detail and the agency’s Baltimore field office. Contrary to Biden’s claims, he compromised the location of a secret underground bunker built to protect the vice president.
• When he was President George Bush’s Treasury secretary, John Snow traveled to his hometown of Richmond almost every weekend and saw a woman agents believed was his mistress, incurring huge expenses for taxpayers because the Secret Service had to accompany him.
• Vice President Spiro Agnew, a champion of family values, had extramarital affairs while in office.
• George W. Bush’s daughters, Barbara Bush and Jenna Bush Hager, gave their Secret Service details a hard time and would try to lose their agents.
• Based on a psychic’s vision that a sniper would assassinate President George H.W. Bush when he arrived in Enid, Oklahoma, to give a speech, the Secret Service changed his motorcade route.
• To make the press think he came to work early, Jimmy Carter would walk into the Oval Office at 5 a.m., then nod off to sleep. Carter refused to allow the military aide with the nuclear football to stay near his home in Plains, Georgia, jeopardizing the nation’s safety when he was staying there.
• Lyndon Johnson would order Secret Service agents to drive on crowded sidewalks so he could make an appointment on time. Johnson would urinate in front of the press corps, which included women reporters. He had a "stable" of women with whom he had sex at the White House and at his ranch.
• Because of objections by the wife of Michael Chertoff, the secretary of Homeland Security, the Secret Service stopped performing checks on workers cleaning the Chertoffs’ home, even though agents knew that many of the workers were illegal immigrants.
• Vice President Dick Cheney’s daughter Mary, who was guarded by the Secret Service along with her baby, demanded that the Secret Service shuttle her friends to restaurants. When her detail leader objected, she had the agent removed.
• At a Halloween party, Jenna Bush’s now husband Henry Hager became so inebriated that the Secret Service wound up taking him to Georgetown University Hospital. Another time, he became drunk with Jenna in a Georgetown bar and picked a fight with several other patrons. The Secret Service had to intervene to avoid a brawl.
• In contrast to John McCain, Barack Obama—codenamed Renegade—and Michelle Obama—codenamed Renaissance—treat agents with consideration and respect. Contrary to Obama’s repeated claims that he is giving up smoking, he has continued to smoke regularly.
• When Gary Hart was running for president before his affair with Donna Rice was revealed, his friend Warren Beatty would arrange to have one or two stunning young models or actresses meet him at Beatty’s house in Beverly Hills. As Secret Service agents watched through a fence, the women would remove their bikini tops and hop in a hot tub outside, then spend the evening with the married presidential candidate.
• Under pressure from presidential candidates or the White House, the Secret Service will shut down magnetometer screening for weapons at major events, so as not to inconvenience stragglers when the president or a candidate is about to speak.
• While Secret Service agents are often heroic, the agency uses subterfuge to make them seem more so. When members of Congress and other VIPs visit the Secret Service training facility, the agency presents scenarios where agents respond to a threat. While the demonstration is billed as spontaneous, it is secretly rehearsed.
• In recent years, the Secret Service has equipped agents with firearms that are outmoded so that they are outgunned. Counterassault teams, which are trained as units of five to six members, have been slashed to two agents, rendering them virtually impotent in the face of an attack. The service has driven away experienced agents through senseless transfer policies and reduced to almost nothing firearms requalification and physical training and tests of agents. Given such laxity, "It’s a miracle we have not had a successful assassination," a current agent says.
Kessler broke the story of the Secret Service scandal involving prostitutes in Colombia. He also revealed that a third intruder, Carlos Allen, crashed the White House state dinner along with Michaele and Tareq Salahi.
Since an assassination jeopardizes democracy itself, few agencies are as important as the Secret Service. Only Secret Service agents know the real story about our nation’s leaders, and Ronald Kessler is the only journalist who has their trust. In importance to the country and in revelations about our nation’s leaders, IN THE PRESIDENT’S SECRET SERVICE is unique.