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Releases surprise officials

The names of the Secret Service detail guarding President Bush's daughter Barbara. The number of agents providing protection to former President George H.W. Bush. The cover name the FBI director's wife uses so she can travel incognito. The arrangements for top National Security Agency officials to avoid airport screening. Cell phone numbers of security officials.

These and many other usually secret security details of federal, state and local executive protection activities are contained in hundreds of pages of documents released this month by Gary W. McLhinney, chief of the Maryland Transportation Authority Police.

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McLhinney did so as part of an effort to show that the six-member executive protection unit he set up at Baltimore-Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport was doing more than just protecting a handful of sports and entertainment celebrities - at public expense - whom he and his officers deemed important.

In the process, he apparently caught the FBI, the Secret Service, the Drug Enforcement Administration, the NSA, the Maryland State Police and other government agencies by surprise. Some said information of the type McLhinney released is material they would never give to news organizations.

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For example, Maryland State Police spokesman Gregory M. Shipley said the agency wouldn't voluntarily release the names or numbers of its officers assigned to guard Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. - who gave McLhinney the job in 2003 - or other state officials. "We believe that impacts security. We just don't discuss such things," Shipley said.

Nevertheless, McLhinney released a June 17, 2005, document naming members of a state police security detail for the governor and his wife, Kendel Ehrlich, for a flight to Denver. Shipley said state police were not consulted before the release.

McLhinney declined to be interviewed and would not answer questions that were not submitted in writing.

Transportation Secretary Robert L. Flanagan expressed confidence in McLhinney's judgment. "I think that he made the proper decision in deciding what is security-sensitive information and what is not," Flanagan said.

But experts in executive protection say they were flabbergasted that a police chief would release such information.

Sheldon F. Greenberg, director of the Division of Public Safety Leadership at the Johns Hopkins University, said he has never heard of a police chief releasing the identities of other agencies' personnel assigned to a security detail. He called McLhinney's actions "sadly comical."

"It so defies the norm in the profession that I'm not even sure how to respond to it," said Greenberg, who spent much of his law enforcement career with the Howard County Police Department. "It seems to me he violated the most sacred tenets that exist among chiefs of police and sheriffs, and that is to respect the identities of another agency's personnel."

Harry Coyne, a security consultant who has worked in executive protection for 20 years, said he was "absolutely shocked" that a police chief would release agents' identities.

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"He has literally risked people's lives," said Coyne, who operates Coyne Consulting Group in Boston.

Tom Blake, a Dallas security consultant who earlier in his career provided security for Secretary of State Henry A. Kissinger and Federal Reserve Chairman Paul A. Volcker, said "that's nuts" when told McLhinney had given out the names of Secret Service agents for the Bush family.

McLhinney called a news conference May 16 to release packets of the escort records to news organizations after The Sun filed a public record request for records of escorts given to private citizens. He also used the occasion to complain about a reporter seeking to question a member of the escort team.

He said in an earlier interview that his agency provides an escort based on whether a particular celebrity is "high-profile," leaving that decision to the commander at the airport, who reports to Lt. Col. Russell N. Shea Jr., chief of operations for the Transportation Authority Police.

Among the celebrities provided escort service is former Orioles star Cal Ripken Jr., for whom Shea occasionally moonlights as a security officer. A survey of eight other major U.S. airports showed that none of them offers a comparable service to celebrities. Blake noted that a wide variety of private companies provide executive protection services for well-heeled people. "Pick up the yellow pages," he said.

While The Sun sought information only about private individuals who received armed escorts, McLhinney revealed far more information that was not sought:

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The number and names of the Secret Service special agents who traveled with Barbara P. Bush when the president's daughter flew out of BWI to Denver on March 20.

The number of Secret Service agents accompanying former President Bush and his wife, Barbara, on Nov. 30 - as well as the number of vehicles in their motorcade and other escort procedures.

The names of the armed agents who traveled with DEA Director Karen P. Tandy and deputy administrator Michele Leonhart in June 2004.

Information about how William B. Black, the deputy director of the NSA, flew out of BWI to Denver with his wife and another travel companion in September, and how two members of the party were allowed to bypass Transportation Security Administration screening.

The cell phone numbers of security personnel for top federal, state and city officials.

Darrin Kayser, a spokesman for the TSA, said the release of its VIP logs did not appear to violate federal law because it concerned flights that already took place. He said McLhinney had not consulted the TSA about the release and said the agency is taking no position on whether it was a good idea.

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Most of the agencies involved would not react specifically to the document release, but some said they would not have disclosed such information.

"We don't release information on the names of our employees or the numbers of agents protecting our protectees. We don't release anything that has to do with our means and methods of protection," said Kim Bruce, a spokeswoman for the Secret Service. She said that if any other agency receives a request involving Secret Service procedures or agents, "we would hope they would go through the Secret Service prior to releasing any information."

Mike Kortan, a spokesman for the FBI, would not comment on the release of a document revealing the cover name used by Ann Mueller, wife of FBI Director Robert S. Mueller III, when she flew through Baltimore this year. However, Kortan asked The Sun not to print that information.

NSA spokesman Don Weber would not comment and referred questions to the Transportation Authority Police.

Special Agent Steve Robertson, a spokesman for the DEA, said the agency was not informed of McLhinney's decision to reveal the names of armed DEA agents.

Robertson said that if the DEA had been consulted, it would have asked that the names of its agents be withheld. He said the DEA tries to limit publicity about its agents because they can become targets of retaliation by drug traffickers. "It would have been nice to get a courtesy call," Robertson said.

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On the surface, the federal reaction was relatively measured, but Coyne said they would likely play down the importance of McLhinney's disclosures.

"They would be on the back channel behind the scenes saying, 'I don't know what this guy's problem is, but basically he's compromised national security,'" Coyne said.

Flanagan said he had not heard complaints from agencies concerned about the release of information.

"The Transportation Authority Police have excellent relations with other police agencies in the state and with federal agencies and other law enforcement agencies across the country," he said.

michael.dresser@baltsun.com


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