"Security Theater in New York City"
For the U.N. General Assembly:
For those entranced by security theater, New York City is a sight to behold this week. A visit to one of the two centers of the action—the Waldorf Astoria, where the presidents of China, Russia, the Prime Ministers of Israel and the Palestinian Authority, and the President of the United States—are all staying. (Who gets the presidential suite? Our POTUS.) Getting to the Waldorf is a little intimidating, which is the point. Wade through the concrete barriers, the double-parked police cars, the NYPD mobile command post, a signals post, acreages of metal fencing, snipers, counter surveillance teams, FBI surveillance teams in street clothes, dodge traffic and a dignitary motorcade or two, and you’re right at the front door of the hotel. A Secret Service agent from the Midwest gestured dismissively when a reporter showed him a press credential. “You don’t need it. Just go in that door over there.”
At the door over there, another agent sent the reporter back to the first agent. The two agents—each from different field offices, no doubt—argued a bit over which of the Waldorf front doors they were going to let the general public in. Maybe the agents had just been “pushed”—or there was a shift change. In any event, the agents didn’t seem to mind when the reporter walked right past them. A standard magnetometer and x-ray screening later, and I was in the packed front lobby. African heads of state were just about to have a group lunch, and about three dozen members of the continental press corps awaited some arrivals. Some of the heads of state walked in through the front, tailed by a few of their own bodyguards and tired looking USSS agents.