The Secret Service changed a motorcade route for the first President George Bush based on a psychic's vision that he would be assassinated, according to a new book about the presidential protective agency.
"In the President's Secret Service: Behind the Scenes with Agents in the Line of Fire and the Presidents They Protect," by veteran author Ronald Kessler, evidently is stocked with such juicy items, considering the steady drip of leaks about the book over the past few weeks. It's a curious development, considering that the White House protective detail is supposed to see everything but say nothing about its main client, the President of the United States.
But Kessler, a former investigative reporter at The Washington Post and Wall Street Journal and author of several "inside" books on U.S. intelligence, has obviously drilled a hole in the Secret Service's wall of silence, which began crumbling in earnest a few years back with former agents telling tales about President John F. Kennedy's mistresses.
Today Kessler passed along the following anecdote about the psychic, the Secret Service and the 1992 reelection campaign of Bush, taken from his new book, scheduled for publication Aug. 4.
(A Secret Service spokesman at first told SpyTalk it was "false," which he later amended to, "It doesn't make sense.")
In Kessler's telling, Bush was scheduled to give a speech on September 17, 1992, at the civic auditorium in Enid, Oklahoma.
"Agent Norm Jarvis was assigned to run intelligence investigations for the visit, and a detective from the Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation called him," Kessler said by e-mail.
"He said that a woman who was a psychic had told her police contact, whom she worked with on a homicide case in Texas, that she had had a vision that President Bush was going to be assassinated by a sniper."The police contact, a detective, "told Jarvis that this psychic's visions had actually helped police find buried bodies and had provided useful leads in criminal investigations," Kessler said. "Another seasoned law enforcement homicide investigator from Texas also told Jarvis that he needed to pay attention to her."
"Jarvis interviewed the woman, who provided more details from her vision. Jarvis asked her to pinpoint where the president's limo was. She said it was at the Air Force base near Enid. He asked if she could take him to it; she agreed.
"As they drove toward the five hangars on the base, the woman gave Jarvis directions."
Kessler quotes Jarvis as saying:
"As we got close to this one hangar, she said to slow down."
The woman said, "Something is in that building right there."
"What do you mean?" Jarvis asked.
"Something important is in that building there."
"Okay, but not the limo?"
"No," the woman said.
Kessler says, "As they drove past another hangar, the woman said it contained the limo. She then identified another hangar as containing something important.
"Jarvis's hunch was that the limo was in the firehouse bordering the runways. As it turned out, he was wrong and the psychic was right.
"Secret Service agents guard the president's limo until he steps into it. Jarvis checked with them and learned that the hangar identified by the psychic as housing the limo did indeed contain two presidential limousines."
"As more details from the psychic turned out to be right, the advance leader decided the psychic could not be ignored. Never mind if anyone thought they were crazy. Better safe than sorry, he and Jarvis thought."
The leader of the Secret Service advance team ordered the motorcade to take an alternate route, avoiding the overpass, Kessler says. Bush was unharmed. Secret Service spokesman Edwin Donovan said Kessler's story, "doesn't make sense. We don't make practice of changing a motorcade route based on a psychic." But Donovan, who spent five years on the presidential protective detail, conceded that Agent Jarvis could have told the story to Kessler.
"You'll have to ask the agent," he said.
Kessler said he would not make Jarvis, who is retired, available for an interview.
"The Secret Service cooperated on the book, the first time it has cooperated on a book about the agency," he said in an e-mail. One result is Kessler's report that the agency's "management has been cutting corners since the agency's absorption by the Department of Homeland Security, risking the assassination of President Obama, Vice President Biden, and future presidential candidates."
In an interview with Kessler for the book, Secret Service Director Mark Sullivan "denied that the agency has been cutting corners," Kessler said.