- The Washington Times - Friday, September 3, 2004

NEW YORK — Security was breached each of the last three days of the Republican National Convention, which ended Thursday, despite the multimillion-dollar price tag and the army of law enforcement charged with protecting the officials and delegates in attendance.

During his acceptance speech inside Madison Square Garden on Thursday, President Bush was interrupted by a heckler who, witnesses said, was fully credentialed with one of the many levels of passes that were handed out to delegates and the press.

On Wednesday, 10 AIDS activists from a group called ACT UP infiltrated the hall and got within feet of the Bush twins. They then interrupted a speech by White House Chief of Staff Andrew H. Card Jr. before being hustled out loudly by Secret Service agents.

“They were in there legally,” said Kaytee Reik, an ACT UP spokeswoman. “I can’t tell you any more than that.”

And on Tuesday, two members of a protest group called Code Pink penetrated security and during a speech by Vice President Dick Cheney unfurled a banner that read, “Cheney and Halliburton, Making a Killing in Iraq.”

“I had a full-access pass,” said Gael Murphy, one of the two Code Pink members, who spent some time in jail for her actions. “We also had people inside the Garden on Monday, scoping it out, checking into the best places to be during the events. We could have gotten in five people every night.”

She said that the access passes came from a “friend of a friend.”

“We were not in there to hurt anybody,” Miss Murphy said. “But we’ll hurt careers.”

Convention passes come in myriad forms, ranging from limited to full access. A pass to enter the Farley Building, where press outlets set up their offices, would not grant access to the floor of the Garden, for example.

The ACT UP members who made the noise on Wednesday had yellow student passes.

Protesters, even those not affiliated with larger, formal groups, trolled the streets during the convention in some instances asking to “borrow” passes from reporters, who declined.

“Are you going into the convention?” a couple of young dissenters from Austin, Texas, asked a reporter who wore a limited-access pass around his neck. If so, one said, “we have an egg that we injected with red paint and you could throw it in there, that would be great.”

Other protesters of a fashion received their access with blessings. Anti-Bush filmmaker Michael Moore, who drew a good-humored round of boos when he entered the Garden on Monday night, was credentialed by USA Today, for whom he wrote a daily column on the convention this week.

The Senate and House press galleries were responsible for granting passes for the news outlets, a total of 15,000 for the convention.

Delegation passes are handed out by leaders from each state, another allocation of nearly 5,000 passes. External groups, security firms, even food service workers received passes as well.

Somewhere in there, a leak sprung. But anyone with a pass is allowed access to whatever level that pass is for.

Calls to the Secret Service, which oversaw security inside the Garden, were not returned.

“The joys of living in a democracy are that you will have open events and with those freedoms come challenges,” said Mark Pfeifle, director of communications for the convention. “One of those challenges is these types of minor disturbances.”

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