Soft Schell?

Police intelligence officers personally briefed mayor on protesters' WTO plans.

WHAT DID MAYOR Paul Schell know about the WTO demonstrations? And when did he know it? Going into their review, panelists who assessed WTO security failures for the Seattle City Council suspected that Schell knew of but downplayed the threat of the Seattle ministerial being disrupted last year. That seemed even more evident as they learned that a month prior to WTO—as Mayor Paul Schell was famously urging Seattleites to come downtown to shop during the conference—a sweeping security clampdown was underway at City Hall, including measures taken at the mayor's own 12th floor offices to keep demonstrators at bay.

All sorts of smoking gun memos have surfaced since, including an e-mail from former Assistant Police Chief Ed Joiner to a mayoral aide that said in essence that cops were unprepared to handle security. Now, a series of police intelligence documents concerning WTO has surfaced as a result of the Seattle City Council's review, and these may be the most revealing, and damning.

The planning memos and post-WTO review summaries outline how the mayor and police chief were personally briefed by police intelligence officers on the specific dangers the city faced in the weeks and then days before rioting broke out, predicting sabotage, mass arrests, street violence, and attacks on the city's infrastructure and communications system "on a significant scale." Even with such foreknowledge, the mayor and chief opted not to deploy police as a high-profile, proactive force. Most officers were used to cordon off crowds, with a police "flying squad" designated to handle the street violence threat. As it turned out, the 30-member squad had to be deployed to handle other crowd problems, and the most violent protesters were left to run free, causing extensive property damage downtown.

Alec Fisken, who was hired to chair the City Council's WTO Accountability Review Committee, says the police memos have drawn the keen interest of the two remaining citizen panels, whose reports are due out in August. (Panel One's report, laying much of the planning blame on Port Commissioner Pat Davis, was issued June 29.)

"The panels' reactions were similar to yours," Fisken says to our query as to the memos' stunning nature. "They're clear about what police knew."

The Washington State Patrol apparently knew, too. In the patrol's post-WTO review report, Commander Tim Quenzer observed that the SPD "should have listened to the police intelligence it received, and disregarded the mayor's office suggestions that there would be no disruption to everyday life in Seattle. This was a strategically flawed point of view [with] no factual basis. . . ."

The documents detail how WTO's growing security concerns were discussed by the SPD's Criminal Intelligence Section (CIS) with the mayor and then-Police Chief Norm Stamper throughout November and again just days prior to the November 30-December 4 ministerial.

The memos and a post-WTO assessment report by the SPD chronologically outline how concern of violent protests rose steadily. The first tip-off was "June 18, 1999 . . . the Eugene riot by the anarchists that resulted in significant property damage," the report notes. Then "The FBI initiated a 'Terrorist Threat Assessment' dated July 17, 1999, which was disseminated within SPD." It touched on "the more virulent aspects of the possibility of a terrorist attack."

By fall the focus was on direct-action protesters, the assessment indicates. The Ruckus Society, which pledged to shut down WTO using illegal street blockades, caught SPD's attention, resulting "in SPD Intelligence initiating an authorized investigation" of the group. Subsequently, the Direct Action Network (DAN), and then the Oregon anarchists, fell into SPD's sights.

One memo recounts how, at a WTO security planning session in October, intelligence officers expressed "the belief the DAN activists would attempt to use the parades/marches scheduled for 11/30 as screens for their activities. In addition, information was developed and disseminated on the Eugene Anarchists. As always, we stressed the theme of the activists and our opinion that they were serious about it. There was added weight to 11/30 being the target date in that individuals and groups were reminding each other not to get arrested until 11/30.

"In early November, specific tactical information including estimates on DAN capabilities was developed. Briefing papers were disseminated on 11/9 and 11/23 regarding this information. FBI initiated a 'Threat Update' on 11/17, which was also disseminated to SPD commanders."

By that time, CIS was getting hard info on the protesters. Investigators felt that "anarchists' groups constitute the greatest concern with regard to demonstrations related to criminal activity and 'affinity group' direct actions. Their ultimate goal is to disrupt the WTO to the extent that it cannot conduct its business. . . ." CIS was also aware that "Considerable specificity is evident regarding the disruptive plans set for 11/30. . . . Also emphasized is the point that these marches would include anarchist affinity groups and that the overall goal of all participants was to prevent Clinton from speaking and WTO from meeting on 11/30. Groups will have particular agendas, e.g. lockdown/blockades via tripods, police confrontation with possible occupation of sites, etc. Supposedly this is going to be a pie-shaped assault."

Investigators warned that "possible and probable criminal activities [including] property damage . . . city infrastructure attacks, electronic [computer] infrastructure attacks" would be done "on a significant scale." Officers said they had intelligence on "suspected technological capabilities of the participants" that would aid their united effort. Police also were aware of the "probability" of sabotage by WTO opponents working as volunteers for the WTO conference, mass civil disobedience that could result in "arrest-a-thons," and disruption of "specific downtown businesses believed targeted by the anarchists."

According to the CIS, they gave oral briefings on this information stressing "the theme of the activists and our opinion that they were serious about it" to Stamper on November 23. "Mayor Schell," the CIS says, "was briefed personally by CIS on 11/28," along with Deputy Mayor Maude Daudon, Assistant Chief John Pirak, and several police commanders.

Two days later, as police followed orders from the mayor and chief, assuming a laid-back, welcome-to-Seattle approach, the protesters were able to shut down the WTO conference. To protect Clinton and the conference, police made a forceful if not riotous stand themselves in the following days.

Schell has indicated that if such danger signals were misread it's because "I'm no security planner." Stamper recently indicated to city reviewers that he didn't agree with the "analysis that this thing is much bigger than anybody's thinking and potentially much more dangerous."

The intelligence memos are now being studied by the city reviewers. "This is an important credibility question for both of the panels," says Fisken. "Be assured they're looking into it."

Visit our special supplement section on the WTO.

 
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