Very Short Book Excerpt April 2013

The Day the Secret Service Almost Shot Mahmoud Ahmadinejad

The intelligence brief on the apparent accident was three sentences long, and it scared the hell out of White House officials.
Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad laughs as U.S. President George W. Bush addresses the U.N. General Assembly on September 25, 2007. (Reuters)

One morning in September 2006, during the United Nations General Assembly, President George W. Bush’s daily intelligence brief contained a particularly chilling item. It was three sentences long, and it scared the hell out of the dozen or so White House officials cleared to read it. According to one official, it began, “A U.S. Secret Service agent, in an apparent accident, discharged his shotgun as Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was loading his motorcade at the InterContinental Hotel yesterday.”

At the time, the Bush administration was weighing how to deal with the Iranian nuclear-weapons program. And here a Secret Service agent had just given Iran a potentially devastating public-relations coup. Ahmadinejad was certain to reveal the accident in some grand form before the whole of the United Nations. He might allege that the United States had tried to assassinate him, and thus upend the entire conference. “When I read that, I remember closing my eyes,” recalls the official.

The agent was adjusting the side-mounted shotgun on one of the motorcade’s armored follow-up Suburbans when it discharged. “Everyone just stopped. The Iranians looked at us and we looked at the Iranians. The agent began to apologize. Ahmadinejad just turned his head and got into his car.” And that was it.

The Iranians told no one. Their silence led several White House aides to begin to see Ahmadinejad in a new light. Here was evidence that maybe Iran was acting strategically, and therefore cautiously.

—Adapted from Deep State: Inside the Government Secrecy Industry, by Marc Ambinder and D. B. Grady (to be published this month by Wiley)

Presented by

Marc Ambinder is an Atlantic contributing editor. He is also a senior contributor at Defense One, a contributing editor at GQ, and a regular contributor at The Week.

David W. Brown is the coauthor of The Command: Deep Inside the President's Secret Army and Deep State: Inside the Government Secrecy Industry. Generally published under the pseudonym D.B. Grady, Brown is a graduate of Louisiana State University, a former U.S. Army paratrooper, and a veteran of Afghanistan. He lives in Baton Rouge, Louisiana.

Never Tell People How Old They Look

Age discrimination affects us all. Who cares about youth? James Hamblin turns to his colleague Jeffrey Goldberg for advice.

Join the Discussion

After you comment, click Post. If you’re not already logged in you will be asked to log in or register.

blog comments powered by Disqus

Video

Never Tell People How Old They Look

Age discrimination affects us all. James Hamblin turns to a colleague for advice.

Video

Would You Live in a Treehouse?

A treehouse can be an ideal office space, vacation rental, and way of reconnecting with your youth.

Video

Pittsburgh: 'Better Than You Thought'

How Steel City became a bikeable, walkable paradise

Video

A Four-Dimensional Tour of Boston

In this groundbreaking video, time moves at multiple speeds within a single frame.

Video

Who Made Pop Music So Repetitive? You Did.

If pop music is too homogenous, that's because listeners want it that way.

More in Global

More back issues, Sept 1995 to present.

Just In