- The Washington Times - Thursday, August 17, 2000

LOS ANGELES The thousands of police and Secret Service agents surrounding the Democratic National Convention here appear helpless against the combined forces of friendship and capitalism.
Dozens of gate-crashers at a minimum are buying credentials or getting them from friends in the media or sponsoring corporations and entering as "honored guests."
Reported Andy, a graduate student in classics at the University of California's Berkeley campus, "I was just hitting on a girl on the street a couple blocks north of the protest area outside Staples Center and a producer she knew drove by and offered her a couple of passes. So I went in and watched Bill Bradley's speech."
Vic, a wheelchair-bound Venezuelan student at suburban Pomona College, got his Monday night press gallery pass a different way.
"I arranged to meet my buddy, who's working for CNN, at the cyclone fence around the periphery of Staples and the L.A. Convention Center," he reported. "Then she passed her credential to me through the fence, and I went through security and gave it back to her. Once you're inside, you don't really need a pass. Nobody bothers you."
And there was Shawn, a UCLA junior.
"I got my pass in the lobby of the Mondrian Hotel," he said. "I had heard you could get tickets in the big hotels, so I went there and asked around and found a guy that had a fistful of honored guest passes. He knew someone who worked for AT&T;," a major convention sponsor.
The Secret Service concedes all these gate-crashing techniques go on every day.
"Our main concern is that people go through the metal detectors," said Jim Mackin, spokesman for the service. "Even if someone has managed to get a credential through some irregular route, they still have to do that. So we feel the convention is secure no matter who is inside, and we don't dispute that it happens, but we don't know how much.
"You still need a credential to get into any of our secure areas, like arrival, departure and staging areas, and secured meeting rooms. Anybody going to those areas gets challenged no matter what they're wearing."
Not even a boast by protest group organizers that they will have people inside Staples during Vice President Al Gore's acceptance speech tonight upsets the Secret Service.
"It's not our business what signs people carry," said Mr. Mackin. "We don't screen for politics."
Meanwhile, the trade in tickets and credentials goes on. Gate-crashers themselves estimate hundreds have been given away or bought every night.
A Stanford University graduate student said he paid $200 for a floor pass. A Bill Bradley supporter from Massachusetts paid $100 for an honored-guest ticket to see him speak Tuesday.
Meanwhile, Los Angeles police deny there is any such trade.
"We know of nobody who's not supposed to be in that arena that has gotten in," said a police spokesman.
But Secret Service Agent Sean Concannon, supervising an entry point through the 14-foot-high perimeter fence, conceded credentials could easily be passed through an unsupervised 100-foot stretch of fence behind his post.
"I haven't seen it," he said. "But that's not what we're dealing with."
Apparently, nobody is.
"I was in an aisle 30 feet in front of President Clinton when he made his speech, and it was an incredible thrill," said Pomona student Vic. "If I hadn't been trying to hit on that girl near the protest area, it never would have happened."

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