Tuesday, August 5, 2008

From the World Series of Democracy to the Super Bowl of Security

In today's NYTimes David Johnston and Eric Schmitt provide a fascinating (and grim) look at police preparations for the upcoming national party conventions in Denver (Dems) and St. Paul (Reps) later this month and next. Its clear that what was once a kind of championship of partisan democracy, with floor fights and multi-ballot nominations contests, has turned into a Super-Bowl of security where federal and local law enforcement compete with each other to spy-on and manage citizens who might want to express their views before the assembled party leaders.

National political conventions are a chance for federal agencies to test their latest and most sophisticated technology, and this year is no different. There was a brief flare-up recently between the F.B.I. and the Secret Service, when each wanted to patrol the skies over the convention with their surveillance aircraft, packed with infrared cameras and other electronics. The issue was resolved in favor of the Secret Service, according to people briefed on the matter.

Both Denver and St. Paul, where the Republican National Convention will be held Sept. 1-4, are enlisting thousands of additional officers to help with security. Even so, their numbers will be only about a third of the 10,000 police officers that New York City fielded for the 2004 Republican convention, just three years after the Sept. 11 attacks.

The Denver Police Department will nearly double in size, according to federal officials involved in the planning. The city is bringing in nearly 1,500 police officers from communities throughout Colorado and beyond, even inviting an eight-person mounted unit from Cheyenne, Wyo. State lawmakers changed Colorado law to allow the out-of-state police officers to serve as peace officers in Denver.

I particularly like this quote from White House security adviser (and Boalt grad!) Kenneth L. Wainstein which suggests that since 9/11 no expression of liberty is too minor to escape security management.

“In the post-9/11 world, you have to prepare and plan for all contingencies,” Mr. Wainstein said. “That means preparing for everything from a minor disruption and an unruly individual to a broader terrorist event. We need to plan for everything no matter what the threat level is on any particular day.”

In addition to this year's historic significance of the first African-American major party nominee, officials are pointing to internet organizing efforts by protest groups with names like "Recreate 68" and "Tent State."

Organizers insist the groups are nonviolent, but to the authorities their names alone raise the specter of violent confrontations like those at the 1968 Democratic convention in Chicago.

Apparently lost is the irony that in both the '68 Chicago convention riot, and the Kent State killings, official investigations largely blamed the Chicago Police Department and the Ohio National Guard for the violent results.

1 comment:

  1. It is the policy of fear that reinforces the concept of a police state and tougher penalties as means to addressing a non existant (invisible) problem; or even a problem that is located elsewhere, ex: in the executive branch.

    Lack of social justice breeds unrest in the population.

    We, as a country, do not hold our public servants accountable for their actions and their jobs hence the type of failed social infrastructure we have.

    The best manner to screen rulers and their leadership is by looking at their by product (consequentialism) Cause-Effect... This last Executive administration has left a failed economic sector, a failed educational sector, a failed healthcare sector, YET it has never been put in question if a true change is indeed needed.

    "The problems of today cannot be solved by the same level of thinking that created them..." Albert Einstein...

    "Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expect different results..." Albert Einstein