A trove of new documents exposes how Cleveland’s impending Republican National Convention will subject the public to a massive domestic military operation. Following decades of planning and millions of dollars spent, the RNC this July will amass into an unprecedented security state, constricting the constitutional rights of thousands of people.
As the panopticon descends on Cleveland, military forces will begin staging security operations at NASA’s Glenn Research Center, while other federal forces begin staffing a “Multi Agency Communications Center” (MACC), located at the International Exposition Center (IX) near the Hopkins International Airport.
Below is a map of the NSSE JTF-RNC-2016 support structure
The mechanics of America’s most distilled form of political lockdown, the National Special Security Event (NSSE), are spelled out in a series of posted PDFs, some from the Ohio Emergency Management Agency (these have since been taken down). NSSEs are massive security operations managed by the Secret Service, which activate many supporting federal and military agencies, such as Homeland Response Forces, and tactical units from state and local police departments across the region.
Large event planning has evolved dramatically since the 1968 Chicago Democratic National Convention marshaled massive police, federal and military support. NSSEs were defined and systematized as perpetually repeating large activations by President Bill Clinton in 1998’s Presidential Decision Directive 62 (PDD-62). In 2016, the NSSE framework remixes the Incident Command System (ICS) for civilian law enforcement aided by FEMA, along with a “Dual Status” Joint Task Force military command.
NSSEs have regularly featured extreme abuses of human rights, combined with sophisticated messaging to bolster acceptance of authoritarian policies. At the 1999 WTO protests, FEMA operated a detention facility at Sand Point Naval Station. After the 2004 RNC, New York City paid out $18 million to settle lawsuits stemming from the mass detention of thousands of people inside Pier 57, which was contaminated with oil and asbestos. During the NATO Summit in Chicago in 2012, some anti-war protesters were taken to Homan Square, a notorious “black site” where people report being assaulted and tortured by local police and access to legal council was systematically denied.
Surveillance technologies normally used domestically in the “war on drugs“, such as real-time video spying from an RC-26 aircraft, are known to be used during National Special Security Events. High resolution live video is transmitted into military geospatial intelligence platforms and combined with data from social media and classified federal databases for real-time analysis by each fusion center. The extreme abuse by police combined with domestic military surveillance forms a potent mix of dystopian authoritarianism.
Cleveland has struggled with state violence in recent years; the killing by police of twelve-year-old Tamir Rice is one example among many. The police department is currently run under a consent decree reached with the Department of Justice. Foreshadowing coming events, community protests in Cleveland have been targeted with counterinsurgency-style policing in the last two years, with mass arrests taking place and protesters being detained at Burke Lakefront Airport.
An anonymous zine about the 2016 RNC points out the county attorney is a ‘lame duck’ already rejected by voters, and many national-level police forces have bailed out of the event. Now mired in logistics failures, the city’s 48-slide planning overview claims they are trained to send out Mobile Field Forces (tactical police), conduct mass arrests, and prepared for “civil disturbance operations” (CDO), aka riot control. Meanwhile, the Cleveland police union has repeatedly warned their riot gear doesn’t fit and arrived too late for substantial training.
Roughly $50 million dollars are distributed to secure each NSSE, which bolsters local militarization of police after the spectacle leaves town. In Cleveland’s case, Congress reached a package deal in late 2015 to fund NASA‘s Glenn Research Center, with the condition that the center host the Pentagon’s forward staging base “DCO/E (FWD)” during the event. After acquiring the federal grant to cover NSSE costs, the city of Cleveland and its police department are able to obtain insurance policies that provide massive amounts of funds to fend off lawsuits via technicalities and discovery demands against plaintiffs. During the 2008 RNC in Minnesota, the collapsing insurance giant AIG insured the city of St. Paul and local police so they wouldn’t have to directly defend themselves from lawsuits over unconstitutional mass arrests, searches and raids. Even more money gets disbursed to regional units of government, providing an overtime bonanza with new expensive equipment for law enforcement, such as the infamous Harris Stingray (IMSI cell interceptor) and long-range acoustic sound cannon (LRAD), first introduced to US citizens during the 2009 G20 Conference in Pittsburgh. All of this is done with money Congress borrows by issuing debt as Treasury bonds.
These new documents help create, as they call it, a “Common Operating Picture” to understand the structural layers of this militarized domestic policing system. Other supporting documentation about previous NSSEs helps understand how each event builds on the last one, which should help all concerned parties navigate a uniquely awful event management framework. It is also important to document the names of all public officials involved so event activities can be properly subpoenaed and open record data requested.
Below is a timeline of the military build-up in preparation for the RNC 2016:
Here is Unicorn Riot’s 27-minute summary of the two slide decks, running through dozens of details:
Key elements in the two major slide decks: logistics around the FEMA/NORTHCOM base at the NASA site; how the Pentagon builds its response task forces and “dual status” authority. Below the slide decks, context since 1960s urban unrest; our conclusions. We found so much research we set up separate appendices with more information. Let’s dive in.
Below: NSSE Slide Deck: City of Cleveland Safety Preparedness Update Republican National Convention 2016 (Download PDF)
This little-noticed slide deck from the City of Cleveland shows the entire NSSE civilian/police level command structure, first linked on Cleveland.com May 31st after a presentation to the corporate media. It explains how the units involved have been trained to use FEMA’s National Incident Management System to control the protesting population; says that academic & medical researchers have targeted “anarchist tactics” for state benefit, and many other important details. It does not explain the military role at all.
P6: Describes the “Hard Zone” and police supervisors outside that area.
P7: NSSE Executive Steering Committee. Robe Rowe is the Secret Service coordinator.
P8: Totally support constitutional rights, you bet “within the guidelines set forth”.
P9: Unified command structure (based on Incident Command System – ICS). 500 local law enforcement officers (LEOs) and 2500-2700 outsider LEOs. The Cleveland police will use National Incident Management System (NIMS) so they can work in concert.
P10: FBI and FEMA responsibilities
P11: Airspace is restricted. Northern Border Initiative is the task force for waterfront patrol. Four types of spy teams: I-Teams (intel), PICC Teams (Protective intel), CS Teams (counter surveillance), street undercover teams. A “Collaborative enterprise from federal, state, county and local law enforcement.
P13: A special RNC video unit has been created to collect video evidence.
P14: Mass arrest rundown. House of Correction (HOC), Annex Building, Central Prison Unit (CPU), district jail facilities.
P15: Detainees likely at Cuyahoga County Jail, booking and processing. Geauga County Jail also with beds, and municipal courts as well.
P16: They have done several table top exercises (TTX) to simulate mass arrests (likely with FEMA, as seen later)
P17-26: Emergency medical services teams
P27: “National Veterinary Response Team” (NVRT). Yes that is also a team, for the police horses & dogs.
P28-30: Hazmat/Fire teams
P31: Comms intro, used plans from 2012 Charlotte & Tampa, backup systems.
P32: Government Emergency Telecommunications Service (GETS) has priority service for mission critical functions and individuals. GETS and its parent program, NCS has a long history since 1963 in major national crises, including Iran-Contra and 9-11. More on GETS below.
P33: City Emergency Operations Center (EOC) is a key central location managed by city. Talks to other nodes: Multi Agency Coordinating Center (MACC), Joint Operations Center (JOC), Critical Infrastructure Coordinating Center (CICC), Intelligence Operation Center (IOC), Cuyahoga County EOC, and State of Ohio EOC, and all other command centers and posts. (see our map for locations already identified)
P34: EOC is the city clearinghouse, using Area Command Model of Incident Command System, 24 hours a day, in 12-hour shifts. 0600-1800 is A shift, 1800-0600 is B shift. The Joint Information Center is located to distribute propaganda to media corporations at this EOC.
P35: EOC: Incident Action Plans (IAPs) and Situational Reports (SITREPs) will be produced regularly and posted on a Knowledge Center vendor system.
P36: The EOC has three rooms: main floor, tactics room, and JIC propaganda center. EOC tech tools: 100+ Networked security cameras provide spying. 20 big TV screen “video wall” will help “make more informed decisions”. Knowledge Center software is available (see knowledge-center.com). All three rooms can video conference.
P37: Typical agencies represented, including FBI, FEMA, National Guard, First Energy utility.
P38: Complete organizational chart of the “A Shift” includes names of unit and section chiefs. The Law Enforcement Branch has Blue, Gold, Purple, White, Internal divisions, and others..
P39: FEMA provides multi-day riot control training including via the Center for Domestic Preparedness (CDP). Police employees trained into National Incident Management System.
P40: more FEMA training courses, some got PER-200 Field Force Operations. See https://cdp.dhs.gov/training/courses/ffo
P41: Police Executive Staff got a special FEMA training with three-day Table Top Exercise (TTX) “on how to mitgate a concentrated-coordinated attack”. Includes advanced ICS and FEMA CDP MGT-300 Field Force Command and Planning (FFC) and MGT-300-1 Field Force Command: Executive Command (FFE). “Captains of Field Operations have been trained and certified in FEMA CDP:MGT 300 Field Force Command and Planning”. This highlights how closely FEMA is working on engaging local police on mobile protester crackdowns.
P42-43: Similar FEMA NIMS training for medical and field force operations.
P44: Emergency Medical Executive Staff also got FEMA sponsored training and three day Table Top Exercise.
P46: Fire employee division gets similar with more hazardous material and extrication tactics trainings, and Event Security Planning MGT-335
P47: More training for nuclear, rail, intermodal container and hazardous material incidents. “Anarchist Tactics During Large Events (Cleveland Clinic/Mercyhurst University Research Team)” seems like weaponizing health and academia. This has not been reported elsewhere.
P48: The city got $50 million from the DOJ Bureau of Justice Affairs. In the “small sample list of goodies: SUVs, pickups, cargo vans, transport vans, utility vehicles (UTVs, like large ATVs), bicycles, chemical munitions, “housing at local universities for out-of-state Law Enforcement Officers”, Memoranda of Understanding (MOUs) with external law enforcement entities. This implies cash changes hands via the MOUs.
Below: Colonel Frederic A Drummond, DCO Region V presentation at Ohio Emergency Management Spring Conference, April 26 2016, about Defense Coordinating Officer (DCO) + Defense Coordinating Element (DCE). (Download PDF)DCO_REGION_V_OHIO_CONF
This dense but interesting 17-slide deck shows: the “dual status” military command headed at the NASA research facility with FEMA logistical support; specifies how the Multi Agency Communications Center will be operated at the International Exposition Center; how “Title 10” and “Title 32” domestic military authority are combined.
P2: DCO/DCE conducts Defense Support of Civil Authorities (DSCA, USNORTHCOM CONPLAN 3501) coordinating “Title 10 forces and resources in support of the Federal Primary Agency (PA)
P3: Explains how USARNORTH is a three-star command at Fort Sam Houston, TX, responsible inside NORTHCOM for Homeland Defense, Civil Support, working with Canada and Mexico. FEMA region DCOs are under USARNORTH.
P4: Every DCO contact info from each FEMA Region. The presenter is the DCO for Region V and based in the Chicago FEMA office “in order to protect the American people and our way of life.”
P5: Types of emergency support functions. Includes National Communications System (NCS) notes later in post.
P6: Tons of agencies they work with, generally including Canadian and Mexican security, Pentagon Agencies and Homeland Security, NASA, CDC, Red Cross, etc.
P7: Title 10 (T10D) and DCO Functions. DCOs are main point of contact for Pentagon in Fema regions. Title 10 function include command and control (C2) “by the GCC to a DSC” (?) to run missions for agencies.
P8: Defense Support of Civil Authorities activity spectrum. Includes aiding law enforcement (JTF-N is Joint Task Force North, fka Joint Task Force 6 which goes after drugs. See www.jtfn.northcom.mil.) RNC + DNC are “Most likely – small” in the spectrum. ( NOTE NEED NC + IRA definitions). “Most dangerous” includes hurricanes and New Madrid earthquake, the subject of a National Level Exercise in 2011, (LINK to CONPLAN story)
P9: Structure of DCO/E teams.
P10: Org chart naming all DCE officers in Region V. Includes State EPLO teams for every state in Region V.
P11: Typical DSC C2 (command and control) model. Shows how a Dual Status Commander at the RNC will inherit delegated authorities of the Governor, via the state National Guard, and the President of the US, via the Secretary of Defense and NORTHCOM, as well as a mysteriously empty box.
P12: Bureaucratic process to activate a DCE to help after some disaster or similar.
P13: National Response Architecture: How a Unified Coordination Group works between a state level EOC, and the FBI, a Joint Task Force and private sector NGOs to provide “Emergency Support Functions (ESFs).
P14: DCO/E REGION V RNC-16 Concept of Support: Crucial slide shows numerous command centers, with NASA Glenn Research Center as the forward base [DCO/E (FWD)] for military activity, in conjunction with several others. Also notes FBI is lead in Crisis Management (CrM) and FEMA in Consequence Mangement (CqM) in case of major disaster. Importantly, also shows: FEMA IOF at NASA; DCO rear base in Chicago at FEMA’s downtown RRCC office; Coast Guard District 9; the FBI “JOC/IOC” somewhere in Cleveland; OEMA SEOC in Columbus; RNC Joint Task Force (JTF-RNC) based in North Canton; Ohio National Guard JFHQ (headquarters) at Columbus; Base Support Installation (T, Transport?) at Wright-Patterson.
P15: DCO/E Task Organization for RNC-16: Includes: “RNC Battle Rhythm and Timeline”; names of each officer stationed at the different command facilities. Also includes a huge list of preparatory exercises with names like Eagle Rising, hosted by FEMA, two “battle assembly” prep events, and table top exercises. Proves the MACC will be at the International Exposition (IX) Center. Also indicates ARNORTH personnel will work from the Chicago FEMA RRCC office on GIS technology. COMMEX 1300 at the NASA site is probably a communications exercise.
P16: All Hazard PLanning indicates plans to activate various teams like medical response.
P17: Includes Col Drummond’s contact information, email and phone numbers.
NASA’s Glenn Research Center to host FEMA & military forward bases
The NASA Glenn Research Center near the Cleveland airport is becoming a central logistical hub for RNC 2016 security operations. National Special Security Events (NSSEs) such as national conventions, G20 gatherings and major sporting events are important sources of pork spending for federal agencies; they receive large sums of money appropriated by Congress, which helps keep bureaucracies well-fed and busy. NASA is well-known for having tight budget concerns, so the agency will be happy to get its hands on NSSE cash in exchange for hosting a police state logistics hub.
A 2014 editorial on Cleveland.com compared the economic impact of the 2016 RNC to the ongoing role of the Glenn Research Center facility, saying Glenn has suffered “death by a thousand cuts” as dwindling space program funding tends to get diverted to the southern US.
“NASA’s Cleveland center is the space agency’s primary driver of research, technology and systems designed to advance not only space exploration, but also aviation.”
In December 2015, locals were relieved that the Glenn Research Center secured ample federal funding.
On March 18, 2016, NBC affiliate WKYC-3 reported that the Ohio affiliate of the ACLU and others were concerned about RNC militarization. They added, “The Omnibus Appropriations Bill will allocate the $50 million for convention security, as well as full funding for Cleveland’s NASA Glenn Research Center.”
NORTHCOM, Civil Disturbance Operations, FEMA DCO teams, Conplan 3502 & Defense Support of Civil Authorities
US Army North (ARNORTH) is a command in Texas, a unit of US Northern Command (NORTHCOM) based at Peterson Air Force Base in Colorado Springs, CO, which is primarily responsible for critical and classified domestic population control plans. NORTHCOM runs its activities using ‘mad libs’ style planning templates called CONPLANs, where regional commanders fill in the blanks. (NORTHCOM was created in 2002 as a Pentagon global combatant command similar to SOUTHCOM or CENTCOM, with an Area of Responsibility over the US, Canada and Mexico. it is the Pentagon’s counterpart to the Department of Homeland Security, also responsible for “homeland defense” missions.)
USNORTHCOM CONPLAN 3501, “Defense Support of Civil Authorities” (DSCA) is the generic planning template for NSSEs and massive natural disasters. When activated, NORTHCOM units are made available to state-level emergency operations centers, and Joint Task Force commands may be set up, using the DCO officers stationed at FEMA Region HQ offices to coordinate between Pentagon agencies and civil authorities.
For example when National Guard Chinook helicopters transport supplies after a hurricane, this is an implementation of CONPLAN 3501. Detailed DSCA planning documents are available online. (Other CONPLANs such as CONPLAN 3591, “Pandemic Influenza” are partially classified, including the sections about controlling American media outlets in such a medical emergency.)
ARNORTH is also responsible for refining the more ominous and classified USNORTHCOM CONPLAN 3502, “CIVIL DISTURBANCE OPERATIONS,” which is to be used when certain conditions are met, namely state government losing control in an ‘insurrection’. Before 2002, CONPLAN 3502 was known as GARDEN PLOT, and applied in Pentagon domestic interventions such as the 1992 Los Angeles uprising. [A reporter at MuckRock tried to get CONPLAN 3502 released, but it was blocked.]
A Powerpoint file left on an Army Corps of Engineers webserver discovered and reported in 2010 by a member of Unicorn Riot described how Colonel Francey of ARNORTH was responsible for overseeing revisions to CONPLAN 3502, and had refined the plan in the aftermath of the heavily militarized 2009 G20 NSSE in Pittsburgh. This established a link between NSSE activity and ARNORTH’s overall ‘martial law’ style contingency planning.
It is no surprise then, that ARNORTH has a massive role in the 2016 RNC. ARNORTH is coordinating a large set of exercises which will most likely be modeled on CONPLAN 3501 and 3502, for both environmental and ‘civil disturbance’ conditions. NSSEs provide the Pentagon an opportunity to run through these command activations as if a full-blown insurrection were unfolding.
As we wrap up this story for publishing, several team members are listening to local authorities coordinate through the EOC, grappling with celebrating basketball fans, in another big moment for “civil disorder” in Cleveland.
Lots of important questions crop up. What will multi-jurisdictions intelligence and counter-surveillance teams do? Will they run G20-style snatch squads? Will they stage a massive arrest sweep early on to “take attendance” into new biometrics databases? What did the Cleveland Clinic/Mercyhurst University academics discover regarding “counter anarchist tactics”? Will the Division of Fire extrication teams buzz-saw their way through lock-downs? What happened in the three-day table top exercise to set up mass arrest situations?
This bureaucratic, highly structured threat of violence is itself a stupefying force, some theorists claim. Violence is infantile and devoid of reason; thus the steady expansion of this military/police machine is a central part of the dumbing down of America. As David Graeber explains:
“it is not so much that bureaucratic procedures are inherently stupid, or even that they tend to produce behavior that they themselves define as stupid—though they do do that—but rather, that they are invariably ways of managing social situations that are already stupid because they are founded on structural violence.” —The utopia of rules: on technology, stupidity, and the secret joys of bureaucracy
By any reasonable standard, the 2016 RNC is a dumb, even infantile, use of limited social resources. Another layer of satellite surveillance, another round of FEMA training in riot control, another military drug task force sent over Cleveland with fancy spy-planes tapping all the phone serial numbers, won’t solve any of America’s problems.
Humanity used to aim higher and worked towards exploring the stars. Now humans put more soldiers in the NASA research base because higher dreams have failed; the vision of our species has decayed into merely threatening each other down here on this rock. With all the gear used to threaten the public left behind, after the show leaves town local officials need listen even less to the desperate pleas of the population for justice.
See also the new 2016 Republican National Convention research appendices, for hundreds of pages in PDFs we couldn’t fit into this report. (Appendix A: More 2016 RNC specific information, Appendix B: Bonus infocakes for further research: Domestic military intelligence activity, telecoms and more, Appendix C: ICWatch Files show NSSE geospatial intelligence tech & “Common Operating Picture”). Thanks to @SmilyUs for notifying us of the ARNORTH slides.
Written by Andrew Neef & Dan Feidt