For some reason he came and went as he wished, without checking in with the Secret Service, even on days when there was no press conference scheduled!
Link: Secret Service records raise new questions about discredited conservative reporter
In what is unlikely to stem the controversy surrounding disgraced White House correspondent James Guckert, the Secret Service has furnished logs of the writer’s access to the White House after requests by two Democratic congressmembers.
The documents, obtained by Rep. Louise Slaughter (D-NY) and Rep. John Conyers (D-MI) through a Freedom of Information Act request, reveal Guckert had remarkable access to the White House. Though he wrote under the name Jeff Gannon, the records show that he applied with his real name.
Gannon’s ready access to President Bush and his work for a news agency that frequently plagiarized content from other reporters and tailored it to serve a conservative message may raise new questions about the White House’s attempts to seed favorable news coverage. Democrats have sought to paint Guckert in the context of other efforts by the Administration to “plant” positive spin by paying for video news releases and columnists to espouse their views.
Guckert made more than 200 appearances at the White House during his two-year tenure with the fledging conservative websites GOPUSA and Talon News, attending 155 of 196 White House press briefings. He had little to no previous journalism experience, previously worked as a male escort, and was refused a congressional press pass.
Perhaps more notable than the frequency of his attendance, however, is several distinct anomalies about his visits.
Guckert made more than two dozen excursions to the White House when there were no scheduled briefings. On many of these days, the Press Office held press gaggles aboard Air Force One—which raises questions about what Guckert was doing at the White House. On other days, the president held photo opportunities.
On at least fourteen occasions, Secret Service records show either the entry or exit time missing. Generally, the existing entry or exit times correlate with press conferences; on most of these days, the records show that Guckert checked in but was never processed out.
In March, 2003, Guckert left the White House twice on days he had never checked in with the Secret Service. Over the next 22 months, Guckert failed to check out with the Service on fourteen days. On several of these visits, Guckert either entered or exited by a different entry/exit point than his usual one. On one of these days, no briefing was held; on another, he checked in twice but failed to check out.
“I’d be worried if I was the White House and I knew that a reporter with a day pass never left,” one White House reporter told RAW STORY. “I’d wonder, where is he hiding? It seems like a security risk.”
Others who have covered the White House say not checking in or out with the Secret Service is unusual, especially in the wake of Sept. 11. The Secret Service declined to comment.
“We responded to the FOIA request and can provide no further information,” Service spokesman Jonathan Cherry said.
Guckert declined to comment, directing all questions to the Service.
The records furnished by the Service are unlikely to finally answer who approved Gannon’s “temporary” day passes into the presidential residence. The Service keeps a record of who approved passes only for the last sixty days; previous records are kept by the White House.
Since December 2004, all but one of Gannon’s forty-eight temporary appointments were requested by Lois Cassano, a White House Press Office media assistant. One additional request was made by Peter Watkins, a press assistant who now works as deputy press secretary to First Lady Laura Bush.
Guckert sometimes stayed for an extended period of time before and after press conferences, particularly early in his tenure. This was especially common during his first few months, when he might be in the White House for as long as six hours.
Occasionally, the former Talon News reporter visited the White House twice on the same day. This was also most common in the early months.