Police veteran: Reasons for DNC secrecy ‘far-fetched and fantastical’

Law enforcement’s reluctance to disclose security preparations for demonstrators attending the Democratic National Convention in Denver this August has drawn harsh criticism from a veteran police commander.

Tony Bouza, a former chief of police in Minneapolis, Minn., and a former police commander in New York City, says there is no legitimate security reason for Denver and the federal officials to hide key details about a designated demonstration zone and a parade route for activists at the convention, especially since similar information has already been released for the Republican National Convention in St Paul.

In a lawsuit papers filed by the American Civil Liberties Union of Colorado in June against Denver and the Secret Service seeking  to determine the exact location and nature of both the demonstration zone and parade route, Bouza, a 40-year police veteran, submitted testimony that national security concerns cited by law enforcement planners to block the convention information are "far-fetched and fantastical."

Here are some excerpts from the court testimony, where Bouza discusses his past experience coordinating presidential visits and other large events (emphasis added):

In my professional opinion, the hypothetical scenarios depicted in the Declarations of [city and federal law enforcement] resulting from the disclosure of the precise location and configuration of the public demonstration zone—whereby a hypothetical terrorist’s plot to hurl or launch explosives or projectiles at the Pepsi Center delegates attending the convention is dependent on disclosure of information related to restriction on First Amendment activity are highly speculative, far-fetched and fantastical, and the purported need to keep secret the location and parameters of the public demonstration zone (and the terminus of the designated parade route) does not represent a realistic assessment of known or predictable risks against which appropriate security measures can be planned and executed.

Throughout my thirty-six years as an active law enforcement official, both in New York and Minneapolis, no one in law enforcement ever suggested to me, in anticipation of, and planning for a large-scale demonstration connected to a particular appearance of a public official or visiting dignitary, including the President of the Untied States, that it would undermine operational security to disclose, in advance of the event, the areas where the public would be permitted to engage in free speech and assembly in connection with such visit.

Indeed, it is my understanding that law enforcement officials in the City of St. Paul, Minnesota, have already disclosed the precise location of the public demonstration area that will be adjacent to the Xcel Energy Center during the Republican National Convention, as well as the precise parade route for which one permit has already been granted.

There’s more:

In my professional opinion, there is no legitimate law enforcement or security planning basis for [city and federal law enforcement’s] assertions that public disclosure, in advance of the Democratic National Convention, of the location, size, or other parameters of the “public demonstration zone” (to be situated on the grounds of the Pepsi Center) will “seriously impair” the operational security plan for the Democratic National Convention.

It is undoubtedly true that providing the public with information about the location of an event, and the time that certain individuals will be present at a particular location, makes it “easier” for evil-doers to make plans to attack such targets. Thus, disclosure of the fact that the Democratic National Convention will occur inside Denver’s Pepsi Center, between August 25 and August 28, 2008, and that activity on the Convention floor will occur between 4:00 and 9:00 p.m., provides helpful information to those planning to disrupt or commit unlawful acts directed at attendees to that Convention.

Erin Rosa was born in Spain and raised in Colorado Springs. She is a freelance writer currently living in Denver. Rosa's work has been featured in a variety of news outlets including the Huffington Post, Democracy Now!, and the Rocky Mountain Chronicle, an alternative-weekly in Northern Colorado where she worked as a columnist covering the state legislature. Rosa has received awards from the Society of Professional Journalists for her reporting on lobbying and woman's health issues. She was also tapped with a rare honorable mention award by the Newspaper Guild-CWA's David S. Barr Award in 2008--only the second such honor conferred in its nine-year history--for her investigative series covering the federal government's Supermax prison in the state. Rosa covers the labor community, corrections, immigration and government transparency matters. She can be reached at erosa@www.coloradoindependent.com.