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Nat Geo Doc looks inside Secret Service

10/17/2004 8:00 PM Eastern

Much you already know about the Secret Service — along with a myriad of things you’ve never heard before — are part of National Geographic Channel’s fast-moving new documentary, Inside the Secret Service.

A 90-minute presentation that feels more like an hour, the special follows agents as they accompany President Bush to a speech before the student body at Louisiana State University in Baton Rouge, La.; tells about the history and mission of the agency; and gives the personal story of the agents and protectors of the service’s modern (post-World War II) era.

And Nat Geo certainly has the clout to bring in those who were there: Such luminaries as former Presidents Clinton, George H.W. Bush and Gerald Ford are interviewed.

In one of the show’s more gripping segments, Ford and Secret Service agent Larry Buendorf, the agent who knocked the gun from assassin Lynnette “Squeaky” Fromme’s hand, narrate Fromme’s attempt to shoot the president during a walk to the capitol in Sacramento, Calif., in 1975.

A particularly powerful segment recounts the assassination of John F. Kennedy with Clint Hill, the agent who jumped into the back of the convertible limousine immediately after the president was shot. “Politics and protection are like oil and water,” he notes wistfully. “You can only hope to mix it up right.”

Indeed, much of the documentary is about the attempt to attain that mixture — we get a tour of the president’s armor-plated car (complete with an unedited sequence of agent Ken Valentine being interviewed to give viewers a sense of how many questions the agency won’t answer); we follow Democratic presidential candidate Sen. John Kerry on a trip to Iowa to learn about the difficulties living within the Service’s “protective bubble”; and we visit the agency’s high-tech control center, to listen in on the various phoned-in threats made against the president (for reasons of security, no doubt, most of the tape aired threatened Bill Clinton).

We even hear about Sept. 11 and how it affected the agency, though shots of the collapsed World Trade Center were more gratuitous than necessary.

The documentary doesn’t even give short shrift to the Secret Service’s original mission — there’s a full segment on what it does to battle counterfeiting and its modern corollary, electronic fraud.

Like the agency itself, Inside the Secret Service delivers.

National Geographic Channel’s Inside the Secret Service debuts Oct. 24 at 8 p.m. (ET/PT).

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