U.S. Army at the RNC

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by Mary Turck • 10/8/08 • Army Col. Michael Boatner admitted October 7 that active-duty U.S. military were sent to St. Paul for the Republican National Convention. Col. Boatner, the future operations division chief of USNORTHCOM, told Amy Goodman on Democracy Now that the army was “up there in support of the US Secret Service. We provided some explosive ordnance disposal support of the event.”

Col. Boatman denied that the army did any intelligence sharing. “They were just doing routine screens and scans of the area in advance of this kind of a vulnerable event,” he said. “It’s pretty standard support to a national special security event.”

This discussion follows the publication of an Army Times article last month announcing training of a U.S. Army unit for domestic operations under the control of U.S. Army Northern Command.

Matthew Rothschild, editor of The Progressive, expressed grave concern: “Now the Pentagon is doing sweeps of areas before, you know, a political convention? That used to be law enforcement’s job. That used to be domestic civil law enforcement job. It’s now being taken over by the Pentagon. That should concern us.”

The disclosure of U.S. Army operations at the RNC highlights the still unanswered questions about security forces there.

The RNC was designated as a national special security event. When the Secretary of Homeland Security designates a National Special Security Event, ” the Secret Service assumes its mandated role as the lead agency for the design and implementation of the operational security plan. The Secret Service has developed a core strategy to carry out its security operations, which relies heavily on its established partnerships with law enforcement and public safety officials at the local, state and federal levels.” (Secret Service web site)

Security forces deployed at the RNC included Hennepin and Ramsey County sheriff’s departments, Minneapolis and St. Paul police departments, the University of Minnesota police department, Minnesota Highway Patrol, National Guard, suburban and rural police, and out-of-state police. The Secret Service was here. The FBI was here, and active in raids on homes before the convention. And now it’s official — the U.S. Army was here as well.

The latest disclosure highlights many still-unanswered questions about security at the RNC:

• Who gave the orders for raids on private homes and the political headquarters of protesters? We know the FBI was involved, but what was the nature of their involvement?

• Who ordered the arrests and detentions of journalists and harassment of photographers in the weeks before the convention?

• Who searched the computers and cell phones and cameras of those who were detained?

• Where did the information seized from computer hard drives and cell phones and camera memory cards end up?

• What federal agencies now have the name-and-address information and the photos of people who were temporarily detained but never arrested or charged with anything?

And then there’s the $100,000 question: Will the investigation headed by former U.S. Attorney Tom Heffelfinger even address these issues?