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Secret Service defends security at Obama rally in Dallas

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FORT WORTH -- The U.S. Secret Service on Friday defended its handling of security during a massive rally in downtown Dallas for Barack Obama, saying there was no "lapse" in its "comprehensive and layered security plan," which called for some people to be checked for weapons, while others were not.

A report in the Star-Telegram that said some security measures were lifted during Wednesday's rally sparked a public outrage across the country, with most people saying they were shocked that a routine weapons search was lifted at the front gates of Reunion Arena an hour before the Democratic presidential candidate took the stage.

"This relaxed security was unbelievably stupid, especially in Dallas," Jeff Adams of Berkeley, Calif., said in an e-mail to the Star-Telegram, noting the assassination of President Kennedy in Dallas more than four decades ago.

Others said they had recently attended large political events, many for Obama, where security screening was halted. Jeremy Dibbell of Boston said in an e-mail that he attended an Obama event in Boston at which "the same thing happened there. We waited for hours in line as people were screened, and then suddenly everyone was just allowed in without going through any inspection at all."

Nick Shapiro, a spokesman for Obama in Texas, said the campaign would have no comment on whether there was a security breech in Dallas. Shapiro referred questions to the Secret Service.

"There were no security lapses at that venue," said Eric Zahren, a spokesman for the Secret Service in Washington. He added there was "no deviation" from the "comprehensive and layered" security plan, implemented in "very close cooperation with our law enforcement partners."

Zahren rebutted suggestions by several Dallas police officers at the rally who thought the Secret Service ordered a halt to the time-consuming weapons check because long lines were moving slowly, and many seats remained empty as time neared for Obama to appear.

"It was never a part of the plan at this particular venue to have each and every person in the crowd pass through the Magnetometer," said Zahren, referring to the device used to detect metal in clothing and bags.

He declined to give the reason for checking people for weapons at the front of the lines and letting those farther back go in without inspection.

"We would not want, by providing those details, to have people trying to derive ways in which they could defeat the security at any particular venue," Zahren said.

Lt. V.L. Hale III, a spokesman for the Dallas Police Department, said in a statement Friday that he would not comment on security measures at the Obama rally except to say there was no arrest or incident and that it was a "success from a police standpoint."