[FOUNTAIN]Presidential security lapses

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[FOUNTAIN]Presidential security lapses

"I was almost to the car when I heard what sounded like two or three firecrackers over to my left - just a small fluttering sound, pop, pop, pop. I turned and said, 'What the hell's that?' Just then, Jerry Parr, the head of our Secret Service unit, grabbed me by the waist and literally hurled me into the back of the limousine. I landed on my face atop the armrest across the back seat and Jerry jumped on top of me. When he landed, I felt a pain in my upper back that was unbelievable. It was the most excruciating pain I had ever felt. 'Jerry,' I said, 'get off, I think you've broken one of my ribs.'"

Former U.S. President Ronald Reagan described in his autobiography how he was shot by John W. Hinkley, 25, on March 30, 1981. The pain Mr. Reagan felt was not caused by the Secret Service agent but by a bullet embedded less than an inch from his heart. Six rounds were fired toward Mr. Reagan that day. The Secret Service had not recommended that Mr. Reagan, who was going to speak to a construction union audience, wear a bulletproof vest. There would be only a 10-meter walk from his limousine to the entrance of the hotel where he was speaking.

The Secret Service erred again later. Six months after the assassination attempt, a man in a car drove onto the White House grounds through the northwest gate. The guards opened the gate for him after he flashed his headlights and sounded his horn. The man had a record of mental disease, as did Mr. Hinkley. He was captured after he strolled around the White House grounds with three family members for 10 minutes.

Security agents are trained to watch the faces, eyes and hands of people in the area when they guarded important figures. But the principle failed when President William McKinley was assassinated in 1901. The assassin was an innocent-looking man who stood between two suspicious-looking characters to whom the agents gave more attention. Carelessness is the greatest enemy when guarding the president.

We learned recently that a suspected wife-murderer and businessman gave a technology presentation to President Kim Dae-jung and was invited to a dinner at the Blue House. The guest list for any event that the president attends should be examined in advance. Park Sang-beom, a former chief of the presidential security service, said, "I can't understand it." The intelligence agency and the police were also at fault. And now the authorities who shamed the president and put him in potential danger are blaming each other.

The writer is a deputy political news editor of the JoongAng Ilbo.

by Noh Jae-hyun

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