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Unprecedented security for Democratic Convention

(Reuters circulated the following article on July 14.)

BOSTON -- Security for the Democratic National Convention in Boston will be tighter than for any other event in U.S. history due to fears al Qaeda may try to disrupt the election process, officials said on Wednesday.

After a tour of the convention site, U.S. Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge said security levels would be unprecedented for the July 26-29 convention and would be more complex and costly than security for the Salt Lake City Olympics.

Repeating a warning made last week, Ridge said the government feared that al Qaeda might try to stage a ``large scale attack'' in the United States aimed at disrupting the electoral process.

The Democratic convention will be the first major political nominating event since the Sept. 11, 2001 hijacked airline attacks, which killed about 3,000 people.

Ridge said there was no specific intelligence that the convention was a target, but he said federal, state and local police would utilize all resources to prevent an attack.

``We will have patrol boats in this harbor and surrounding waters, providing blanket security coverage that will intercept and trap any terrorist attempting to swim ashore or smuggle weaponry over these waterways,'' Ridge told a news conference at the Charleston Navy Yard.

Other measures include 24-hour surveillance of convention facilities, bomb-sniffing dog teams, portable X-ray machines and explosive detection monitors that will check people and deliveries bound for the Fleet Center convention site.

One of Boston's two main train stations -- located just below the Fleet Center -- and some major highways will be closed or restricted during the convention. Democrats are expected to nominate Massachusetts Sen. John Kerry as their presidential candidate.

Ridge urged business owners and commuters, who have expressed outrage at the draconian traffic restrictions, to understand that the tight security is essential.

``There is obviously some inconvenience associated with hosting a major event,'' he said. Ridge said he was confident the Fleet Center and surrounding areas would be ``as secure as they can possibly be.''

He denied that politics were involved in the latest warning that al Qaeda may try to attack during the upcoming elections.

``This absolutely has nothing to do with politics,'' Ridge said. ``We don't do politics in homeland security.''

Ridge's warning of a possible al Qaeda attack last Thursday came in a week Democrats had captured attention with the announcement of presidential candidate John Kerry's running mate. The election will be held Nov. 2.

Thursday, July 15, 2004

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