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Ex-Agent Insists Author’s Article on Secret Service is Filled with “Half-Truths and Hyperbole” to Promote Book

Don Gambatesa, who retired from the U.S. Secret Service, was a special agent in charge of the agency’s training facility, James J. Rowley Training Center in Laurel, Md.  He wrote this letter to the editor of Newsmax.com, the online publication that  printed a story critical of the agency.

The artcile was written by  Ronald Kessler, author of the new book:  “In the President’s Secret Service: Behind the Scenes With Agents in the Line of Fire and the Presidents They Protect”.

secret-service-book

By Don Gambatesa
Retired Secret Service Agent
Mr. Kessler’s article on August 10, 2009 “Secret Service is Putting the President at Risk” is not only a ploy to hype the sales of his “tell all” book, but it could possibly encourage individuals or groups to make an attempt on the life of the President or others.

Although I have only read excerpts from the book, the article is filled with half-truths and hyperbole. If asked, most former and current Secret Service agents would say that no security plan is without some risk.

The difficult job of the Secret Service is to minimize that risk in order to make it nearly impossible for someone or a group to successfully assassinate the President. I can tell you from my 24 years in the Service that protection of the President involves the use of many security features to include magnetometers.

Of course, the Secret Service is not going to speak openly about the complete package of security related activities that go on before and during a Presidential visit but there are many; and hopefully none of my former colleagues will enumerate them.

In his article Mr. Kessler makes much about the use of magnetometers, but anyone familiar with magnetometers knows that they are not 100% at detecting weapons.

Additionally, since it is commonly known that magnetometers are used to screen those attending functions, a potential assassin may not attempt to take a metallic weapon through the magnetometers and opt for other means. I’m not saying that magnetometers are not useful in deterring potential assassins, they are, but they are only one of many tools employed by the Secret Service.

Mr. Kessler also says “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.”

This is another fabrication by Mr. Kessler. I served as the Special Agent in Charge of that facility and oversaw many demonstrations of the Service’s capabilities.

These were never billed as spontaneous and were only intended to show how agents were trained to respond to threats. However, I can assure you, at least during my tenure, that agents participating in training exercises were not given prior information about the training scenarios.

Mr. Kessler goes on to say that without the changes he mentions in the article an assassination of President Obama or a future president is a real possibility. Here we have another gross exaggeration by Mr. Kessler that he appears to base mainly on the use or the alleged failure to use magnetometers.

Since the Service employs many methods to protect the President, the alleged failure to use one method is certainly not dereliction as Mr. Kessler goes on to say in the article.

It appears to me that Mr. Kessler knows that his book is a dud and his grossly exaggerated article is clearly intended to stimulate sales. Hopefully this effort will be unsuccessful.

Read Washington Post Review of Kessler’s Book


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