Barhopping with Jenna:
On Sept. 12, 2001, another major newspaper was set to run a story on the extraordinary diplomatic maneuverings the U.S. Secret Service had arranged with their Mexican counterparts to allow Jenna Bush, then 19, to make a barhopping trip south of the border. (She had just been charged with underage drinking in Texas.) A few days earlier, a scoop about a presidential daughter's barhopping trip getting special dispensation from the Secret Service and a foreign government might have gotten heavy treatment. But the story never ran, and the Secret Service's maneuverings remained a secret until now. In the weeks and months after 9/11, there was no longer an appetite for such stories.
At the 2004 Republican National Convention:
NPR Reporter Andrea Seabrook: Hello Frank. I'm standing here with Michael Moore, the filmmaker who made Fahrenheit 911. Mr. Moore, why are you here?
Michael Moore: I'm here writing a guest column each day for USA Today.
Seabrook: OK, so you have credentials to...
Secret Service Agent: Come around here
Seabrook: I'm going to have to join him. They're kicking me out of this exact area but I can go around to...They just asked me to come around to the other side here.
NPR Convention Anchor Fred Stachio (phonetic spelling): Andrea Seabrook on the floor with Michael Moore.
Stachio: I know you're still there. I just want to be sure that you can still hear us while your being moved, Andrea.
Seabrook: Well, well I'm not...the Secret Service has blocked off that area. They're calling it a...a hazard because of the number of people who are a gathered around him. There aren't that many people, but the Secret Service won't let me around him anymore, so I think a the access to him might be cut off for a moment. We'll try to get back with him.
Seabrook: Yes, I am in the middle of a...you might be able to hear the Secret Service yelling into my mic at the same time. There, there are a bunch of Secret Service that have surrounded Michael Moore's section. There are three or four reporters with him right now, but they are trying to kick all of the reporters and press photographers who are around him out of his area. The convention staff is also here. They're standing here telling us that we have to move from this are...they're obviously disturbed by the fact that Michael Moore is here and want as little public here as possible.
Stachio: Can we hear? Can we hear what's going on? Can you stick a mic in there? I don't know if we can hear.
Seabrook: Yeah...ah...eh...they've sort of moved me away from that area.
Stachio: I don't understand. Who is it? Is it Secret Service?
Seabrook: It's Secret Service which is interesting because the Secret Service of all agencies is the one that remains...is the least involved in the sort of political...political kinds of things, but of course they always cover the candidates and they have to be involved in the convention like this. They claim that what they're doing is for safety reasons, although there is a almost nobody around Michael Moore right now. So a we'll see if I can a...
Secret Service Agent: [crosstalk] thank you very much
Seabrook: Yeah, I'm being herded back in four different ways right now.
Not So Important:
My inner Frenchman has a story to tell about his own experience with the Bush Era Secret Service. He's been struggling with the decision as to whether he should report on it or not. The Special Agent with whom he worked was a nice guy and very careful in ensuring that the your General's anonymity was preserved. Still, the incident was very troubling to my inner Frenchman and he thinks it's something that should be known.
I'll let him tell it:
As you may recall, I was contacted by the Secret Service about a blog post I wrote in which I quoted Hal Turner threatening the life of Barack Obama. I did not contact them (although I should have done so); they contacted me. That's an important point because it means they initiated the investigation; it wasn't a case where they took a call from some random crackpot.
One of the first things they asked me was if I had a screencap of Turner's post (he deleted it almost immediately after i linked to it). I said no, and explained that he was using a robot.txt file to prevent his site from being spidered by Google, Archives.Org, etc. I further explained that Google et.al. were not required to honor robot.txt code, but did so voluntarily. I noted that other organizations might have archived the post, and suggested that they contact the Southern Poverty Law Center who I suspected would be archiving Turner's site. The agent responded by asking me if I could give the SPLC a call and request the screencap. I immediately contacted them. My guess was correct. They sent screencaps to me and to the Secret Service.
The exchange really bothered me. Obviously, they considered the threat valid enough to look me up, but they gave responsibility for obtaining a key piece of evidence to a blogger who once wrote a four part series on a fraternity's goat-related party activities. Perhaps the Secret Service's resources were needed elsewhere. I wonder if Jenna was barhopping in Mexico that day.