Once a year, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad -- one of the most controversial personalities in the world, a man who questions the Holocaust and is widely suspected of wanting to build a nuclear weapon -- receives escort and protection from the U.S. Secret Service. Ahmadinejad and all of the hundreds of other delegates and dignitaries in New York this month for the 66th U.N. general assembly are potential targets of radicals from across the whole political spectrum. The Secret Service is the organization charged with making sure they remain unharmed. In the March 2011 issue of the magazine, Atlantic contributing editor Marc Ambinder got a unprecedented behind-the-scenes look at the organization and planning that goes into protecting these leaders.
The General Assembly has become an almost unremarkable event, at least by Secret Service standards. There have been 38 "National Special Security Events" since President Clinton first coined the term in a classified 1998 national-security directive. Most of these NSSEs have occurred since September 11, 2001, and 14 of them since 2007, including the two presidential conventions, President-elect Obama's pre-inauguration whistle-stop train tour, the inauguration itself, and the 2008 and 2009 G-20 summits. The General Assembly poses greater security and logistical challenges than many, if not most, of these events. This is due in part to its size, and in part to the fact that habit is the worst enemy of protective security, and the assembly offers an extremely attractive, recurring target: many foreign leaders stay in the same hotels and attend the same events at the same times each year. But despite all this, the General Assembly has not been categorized as an NSSE since 2001. The Secret Service has it down to a science.Read the full story here.
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