Friday, September 9, 2016

Secret Service in my neighbors' yard

Reading Arthur Schlesinger's Journals, you discover that, in 1980, former President Richard Nixon

and Mrs. Nixon moved into an NYC townhouse right next door to where Schlesinger lived with his wife and son. 

Schlesinger had been a friend and advisor to JFK, and knew Nixon, in the way a person "knows" another person in the same business....

-------------------- [excerpt, Journals] -----------------


May 5.

I have not seen anything of Nixon in recent weeks.  He has been away; so have I....the neighborhood has been without drama -- until, that is, a few days ago, when the Secret Service installed a set of cameras, including one on the wall between the Schlesinger and Nixon houses. 

I am presumably half-owner of the wall, though I have not had a chance to check my deed; and no one consulted me about placing a camera on it -- especially a camera that appears to be trained at us.

The last few days have been a chaos as we gathered our forces to leave for two months in England....I had a thousand things to do, a dozen deadlines to meet, but I did manage to draft a letter to the chief of the Secret Service asking about the cameras and wondering why their installation (or at least the installation of the one on the Schlesinger-Nixon wall) had not been cleared with me.

When I returned [from his university office]...I discovered that the crisis had escalated. 

This was yesterday, May 4.  Peter and Adam had been sitting on the wall, as they have been doing for years; and a Secret Service man had told them to get off. 

I told Peter that he had as much right to sit on the wall as Nixon had.  Soon he and Sophie West were out there again. 

The Secret Service agent reappeared. 

"Last time I asked you," he said (as they described it to me immediately afterward), "but this time I am telling you:  get off that wall." 

I was summoned, clambered up on the jungle gym, stuck my head over the wall and found the Secret Service man, complete in jacket and vest, in the Nixon back yard. 

I took the offensive, asserting my half-ownership in the wall (I hope I am right about that), asking why these infernal instruments had been put on the wall without consultation with me, adding that my children had played on the wall for years without causing any harm to anybody and wondering by what authority anyone was ordering them off the wall now. 

The Secret Service fellow was rather more courteous to me than he had been to them (though later he professed ignorance about me, asked my name and did not appear deeply moved when he heard it). 

He said that the appearance of the children on the wall had caused one of the cameras to malfunction.  I repeated my earlier points and asked what the camera was doing on my wall anyway. 

The agent said he was not familiar with the policy, only following orders. 

He also said that, if he were in my position, he would be mad too. 

I said that I had already written to the head of the Secret Service.  He asked whether the children would stay off the wall until the matter was resolved.  I said yes, adding that this was an act of courtesy and did not reflect any doubts about my rights.

It is really rather infuriating to find old Tricky causing this sort of entirely unnecessary problem in the neighborhood.  And the whole thing is so idiotic. 

The enormously tall apartment house covering the west side of Lexington Avenue between 64th and 65th Streets commands Nixon's garden as well as mine. 

If a sniper wished to rid the world of Tricky, he could rather easily do it from the apartment house. 

But the apartment house is impossible to cover.  So they train their equipment at the neighbors.  God knows what they are doing -- photographing us; listening to us? perhaps beaming cancer-inducing rays of the kind the Russians beamed on the American Embassy in Moscow?...


{Journals.  1952 - 2000.  Arthur M. Schlesinger, Jr.  The Penguin Press, New York, 2007.}


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