How presidential security has changed since 1963

BY Rachel Wellford  November 21, 2013 at 5:55 PM EDT

On Nov. 22, 1963, Robert MacNeil and Jim Lehrer were two reporters covering a presidential visit. MacNeil was a White House correspondent for NBC News. Lehrer was working the federal beat as a reporter for the Dallas Times-Herald. Both men were assigned to cover President John Kennedy’s visit to Dallas. They ended up reporting on his death.

Today, it’s next to impossible to get close to President Barack Obama without a Social Security number and a background check. The U.S. Secret Service is made up of 3,200 special agents and 1,300 uniformed division officers, and the president travels in a heavily armored Chevrolet Cadillac, dubbed the Beast, specially designed to protect the head of state.

In comparing the security during Kennedy’s administration to the present day, Robert MacNeil notes that while protecting the president is now an entire industry, in the 1960s it was not nearly as difficult to get close to the commander-in-chief. This video is an extended excerpt from MacNeil and Lehrer’s conversation with Judy Woodruff for our special report on the Kennedy assassination, 50 years later. Watch the special report on Thursday night’s broadcast of PBS NewsHour.


Watch more of MacNeil and Lehrer’s full interview on the Kennedy assassination:


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