Steve Turnham and Scott J. Anderson
Monday, Aug 25, 2008
With $100 million in federal taxpayer funds, the U.S. Secret Service has transformed the two cities playing host to the national political conventions into high-tech fortresses.
But there are still questions about whether the cities are prepared to handle the tens of thousands of protesters who are expected to flood into each city.
This week’s Democratic National Convention in Denver, Colorado, and the Republican convention in Minneapolis-St. Paul, Minnesota, which begins September 1, have been designated “national special security events,” which means the Secret Service is responsible for planning and implementing a security scheme for each city.
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“We’ve been preparing for 15 months and we feel very confident,” said Darrin Blackford, Secret Service spokesman.
Security, which oversees the Secret Service, 24-hour operations centers have been set up in each city to monitor the conventions and surrounding areas.
At the Denver joint operations center, the Secret Service will be able to communicate with at least 62 federal, state and local agencies involved in the security plan, ranging from the Department of Homeland Security to the local power utility.
“We need to have the highest level of security at these venues, but we try very hard and go to great length to make sure that these venues are as successful as possible,” said Eric Zahren, a spokesman for the Secret Service. “We don’t plan on shutting down the city. We want the city to do business and thrive throughout the event.”
The Secret Service is calling on a number of federal agencies to help with specific security tasks.