• United States



sarah d_scalet
Senior Editor

Political Convention Security Central

Sep 01, 20042 mins
Physical SecuritySecurity

At the DNC, an example of public-private partnership in action

The best view of what was happening around the FleetCenter during the Democratic National Convention wasn’t in Boston at all. Instead, it was miles away, in a converted auditorium in an undisclosed suburb. There, officials from more than 40 local, state and federal law enforcement groups, government agencies and private companies gathered at 76 workstations to monitor everything from rowdy protesters to sick delegates to possible terrorist attacks

proof positive that sometimes all these organizations can work together after all.

“This is the area where the sharing of information happens,” says Jim Perro, a senior special agent for the Secret Service and the coordinator of this Multi-Agency Communications Center, the largest one the Secret Service had ever assembled. “If we have all these agencies together, the information can flow almost real-time.”

At the front of the room, a large Secret Service incident monitor lets everyone read about the most important events being monitored by all the agencies in the room. To the right of that large screen are two smaller ones: a Boston Police Department incident monitor and another with whatever information might be needed at a particular moment, perhaps a map provided by the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency. A television set is tuned to CNN. On the morning before the convention began, the communications center had already been active for 48 hours and logged more than 60 events of possible concern. (The Secret Service allowed a reporter into the room on the condition that specifics not be revealed.)

“Say, for instance, a tractor-trailer overturns on the Mass Pike,” Perro says. “Some people report it to the State Police. The State Police are represented in this room. That call comes in, and it’s shared with everybody on the incident monitor.” Or, if there’s a telephone outage, “We don’t have 40 agencies calling Verizon. We walk over to the Verizon guy and say, Hey, why is that central office down? Likewise, if the service has a criminal investigation and needs records, the U.S. attorney’s office is sitting there, and we ask them for the legal power to get the records. We walk over and serve [the Verizon representative] with a subpoena and say, Give me the following nonpublished numbers. And he’s able to access his database immediately,” Perro says, with a snap of his fingers. “We’re not calling a 1-800 line.

“I’m comfortable that if something does occur, we have the people here to deal with it.”