Strong Safety

A season of big events has passed without incident. Was all that security necessary?

First up, in June, was the G8 Summit in the US state of Georgia, where leaders of the world's most powerful democracies gathered - in a remote enough location that protesters stayed away. Then, at the Democratic National Convention in Boston in July, delegates gathered to nominate John Kerry as their choice for next president. The week was otherwise one of the calmest that the city has seen. Finally, days before the third anniversary of September 11, 2001, the GOP gathered in New York City to rally for George Bush. Some called the protests the largest Gotham City had ever seen, but only a few hecklers made it inside the arena. Even the Olympics in Athens nearly squeaked by without incident, until an intruder pushed the leader of a men's marathon off course.

Overall, however, the doomsday scenarios around which many plans were built failed to materialize. Which brings us to security's eternally vexing conundrum: Did the elaborate security work - or was it unnecessary?

"I wouldn't want anybody to infer that we wasted our resources," says Secret Service agent Scott Sheafe, who coordinated the security plan for the DNC. "There was an indication that people were surveilling the site to see if there were weaknesses." The fact that they couldn't find any, he says, "is the result of hours and hours of work behind the scenes."

However, some question the price paid to pull off such secure events. In New York City, nearly 1800 people were arrested in connection with the RNC. Some of them turned out to be bystanders, not protesters, and many complained of lengthy and perhaps illegal detentions.

SIDEBAR: The Cost of Event Security

-- $1.5 billion spent by Greek government on the security for the Olympics.

-- More than half of the $95 million spent on the Democratic National Convention paid for security.

-- $50 million spent on security at the Republican National Convention.

-- $25 million spent in federal funds for security at the G8 summit.

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