Convention Security: An Agent Speaks Up

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Host Liane Hansen speaks with Secret Service Special Agent Ed Donovan about the role and challenges of the agency in providing security for this week's Democratic National Convention in Denver.


The Secret Service will be fully deployed this week at the Democratic Convention. With a budget of more than 85 million dollars for the 2008 presidential campaign, it's become a major operation. To get a better picture of the security operation there, I spoke with special agent Ed Donovan. I wanted to know what the number one security concern was for the Secret Service this week.

Mr. ED DONOVAN (Secret Service Special Agent): You know, I can't really define it as one security concern. We have an intelligence division that spends all their time gathering information from a whole variety of sources, that's local and the state police, other federal agencies. So we consume all that information and then we try to make an assessment of what potential threats are.

HANSEN: Is your concern this year more of a foreign threat or a domestic one?

Mr. DONOVAN: We just really look at the big picture. That's our job. We want to make sure that we're looking at - for every potential problem. If it's a lone gunman, if it's an organized group, if it's international terrorist group, we want to make that we're prepared for any sort of problem that could arise out there.

HANSEN: This convention is going to be very electronically sophisticated. I mean, there's going to be bloggers there, the Internet - all of that stuff. Does that change your job?

Mr. DONOVAN: Not really. We still have to secure an event. We still have to screen everybody that comes in. We still have to provide a safe environment for all the attendees. As far as preparing for this event, we had the late change from the venue, of course, from the Pepsi Center we had the INVESCO Field added on that. And that made it unique. So we had to scramble a little bit but that's not something that we're not used to. You know, we - changes in schedules occur all the time for presidents, vice presidents and people that we protect.

One thing that's different is that we don't have the luxury of time between the two conventions. So when the Democratic Convention ends, four days later we're going right into the Republican Convention. Normally, in the past, we've had about a month between the conventions to debrief, sort of gather ourselves, look at what we did right, what we did wrong and make adjustments. This time, we have a very brief amount of time to do those things.

HANSEN: If you're a secret service agent, you're a field agent, you're working the convention, is it a glamorous assignment or is it a grind?

Mr. DONOVAN: I would say it's a little bit of both. It's interesting to go there because you're looking at a significant historical event, a significant political event. It may seem like you have a small job but it's critical to do your job well, to make sure that the venue is protected. So they may have a seat in a basement somewhere and not really get to see the whole event.

HANSEN: Ed Donovan is assistant special agent in charge of government and public affairs at the Secret Service. Thanks a lot for coming in.

Mr. DONOVAN: Well, thank you.

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