IE 11 is not supported. For an optimal experience visit our site on another browser.

Protecting the president on Inauguration Day

On the eve of the first inaugural since 9/11, NBC's Brian Williams sits  down  with Mark Sullivan, the Secret Service agent who oversees protection of the president.

For members of the U.S. Secret Service, Inauguration Day amounts to their Super Bowl.  It's been 100 years since the Secret Service first began protecting the president on Inauguration Day, although today its methods have never been more high-tech.

On the eve of the first inaugural since 9/11, I sat down with Mark Sullivan, the agent who oversees protection of the president. I began by asking him how the Secret Service keeps up with constantly changing threats.

Mark Sullivan: We continue to evolve with the threat. Whether it be with the technique, the tactic, or the technology. We do our best to maintain that level, which will enable us to combat that threat.                       

Brian Williams: Has everyone in this building tightened up their game a little bit?  Because this is the first inauguration in the 9/11 era?

Sullivan: I think we have. I mean I would like to think that we pretty much go into any type of event at a pretty high level. For this one I think everybody knows the attention that this event is going to get. And we're ready for it.

Williams: People our age remember John Kennedy. We also remember Jimmy Carter coming into office. Is a walk the length of Pennsylvania Avenue possible in our new reality anymore?

Sullivan: I think time will tell on that. They tell us they want to do it, we're going to do everything we can to make sure that walk is a safe walk.

Williams: So the president really is the boss in this relationship?           

Sullivan: I'd say that there's negotiation that goes on. Anybody who's in that position has developed a high level of confidence and trust in what we do.  And I think they're going to listen to what we want to do. But we realize that they have a job that they have to do. And we have to do everything we can to ensure that they can do it.

Williams: So tomorrow what will make you happy?  An event where as far as the public, as far as television viewers know, sails down Pennsylvania Avenue until he is buttoned up tight inside the big white mansion?

Sullivan: I think what will make our organization happy is on Friday if the general public is talking about the significance of the day, and not the security that was implemented to protect the inauguration.