Saturday, August 16, 2008

Angry Reporters Bump Security From VIP Flight

Nicholas Kralev, diplomatic correspondent for the Washington Times,
had an interesting item yesterday (read it here) that tells us something about the relative importance of personal security versus news media coverage when U.S. Secretaries of State travel.

Here are the key quotes:

It took a crisis between Russia and Georgia to attract greater media interest in Miss Rice’s travels, and when President Bush announced Wednesday that she would leave for France and Georgia that night, the secretary’s regular traveling press corps expected to be on the plane.

The State Department, however, stunned everyone by saying that only one seat was available for press. Miss Rice would take an aircraft smaller than the usual Air Force version of a Boeing 757 she uses, which allows for about 13 of us to go along, as I wrote in an earlier post here.

Miss Rice has taken the smaller plane before, but there has always been space at least for the three main wire services: Associated Press, Reuters and Agence France-Presse.

This time, however, we were told that additional seats were needed for more Diplomatic Security agents from the secretary’s protective detail, who would normally go to the countries she is about to visit several days earlier as part of an advance team. Because there was little time for any advance arrangements, this was the only solution, department officials said.

When reporters’ anger was finally brought to Miss Rice’s attention by her press aides, she agreed that only one reporter on the plane was not reasonable and instructed her chief of staff, Brian Gunderson, to find seats for all three wires.

As a result, the security agents stayed home.


Rebecca said...

Wow! Correct me if I am wrong, but shouldn't she have as much security as needed when going to a war zone?

I am sure there were plenty of press already there who could have gotten the sound bite.

TSB said...

I'm sure she had her usual close protection team. It sounds like the agents who were left behind were only the advance team, and their role might not be critical if the SECSTATE sticks to venues the team is already familiar with, e.g., the foreign ministry, U.S. embassy, hotel or EMR, etc.

At least, I hope she had her normal protection team.