Sun, Jun 13, 2004 - Page 3 News List

Presidential security going too far

EXCESSIVE Since Chen Shui-bian was shot, his security detail has become so zealous that even visiting heads of state are required to pass through metal detectors

By Lin Chieh-yu  /  STAFF REPORTER

Since President Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) was wounded in a March 19 assassination attempt, security for the president has become much tighter -- to the extent that security has become a controversial issue with possible implications for the nation's diplomatic image and for Chen's relationship with members of his party.

The National Security Bureau's special task force that is in charge of protecting the president has strengthened its security measures, but to a degree that has brought serious consequences.

Agents, concerned for their jobs, have tightened up security to such a degree that everyone coming into contact with the president must be searched, even when no obvious reason for concern exists.

As a result, searches have been performed on city and county officials, visiting foreign leaders and even Premier Yu Shyi-kun.

The inflexibility of the new security standards has caused the government problems with diplomatic etiquette.

"For the inauguration ceremony, over 15 leaders from countries with which we share diplomatic ties flew in to attend the grand occasion -- but we did not expect that they would have to go through security measures when they attended the inauguration banquet and other activities," a Presidential Office staff member said.

"When First Lady Wu Shu-chen (吳淑珍) visited the US two years ago, she was searched in Los Angeles. US Secretary of State Colin Powell later called the president to apologize," a Ministry of Foreign Affairs official said.

"If we consider the treatment the first lady received a serious affront to the nation's dignity, then our security agents should consider the status of foreign leaders so that Taiwan doesn't become the laughingstock of the diplomatic world," the official said.

At the opening ceremony for a new Foreign Service Institute building this week, security agents prevented even the official Presidential Office photographer from entering, saying: "No entry without a pass!"

Further, foreign diplomats had to line up along with members of the public to pass through security.

This was one of many incidents in which security agents have acted with perhaps undue zealousness since the assassination attempt.

When Chen went to Chingshan (金山) to pay his respects on the 15th anniversary of the death of Deng Nan-jung (鄭南榕), late husband of Vice Premier Yeh Chu-lan (葉菊蘭), security agents, for the first time, installed a metal detector at the site of a presidential visit.

All participants, no matter how many times they entered and left the memorial service hall, had to line up to be checked before being allowed to enter again.

"Presidential Office staff, who had just been checked, had to go through the metal detector again even if they had only left to have a few words with someone and had come back immediately," a staff member who was present at the memorial service said.

Then, on May 4, a metal detector appeared at the Democratic Progressive Party's (DPP) headquarters for the first time.

The special security task force did not provide advance notice to the DPP headquarters or new chief aide-de-camp Major-general Shen Po-chih (申伯之), simply sending people to install the detector. This displeased party officials -- and the special security task force later was forced to apologize.

At an inauguration party in Kaohsiung on May 19, security personnel decided to remove VIP and media sections which were to have been located behind the stage.

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