Even EPA Playing Security Role at NYC Convention

Worried about security at the Republican National Convention (search)? Rest easy: the Environmental Protection Agency (search) is on the job. So are the North American Aerospace Defense Command (search) and the U.S. Postal Service (search). The Coast Guard too.

While the Secret Service (search) and New York Police Department have the most visible roles in convention security, other agencies not normally associated with securing political events have devoted personnel, equipment and expertise to preventing a repeat of the 2001 terrorist attacks on New York City.

"This is the most we've been involved in a political convention," said EPA spokeswoman Mary Mears. "But we live in a different world than we did four years ago."

The EPA and dozens of other federal, state and local agencies were drafted by the Secret Service to play largely behind-the-scenes roles in a security plan that is considered unprecedented in its size and scope.

The Republican convention is "the biggest and toughest" of any of the so-called National Special Security Events, including last month's Democratic National Convention in Boston, said A.T. Smith, special agent in charge of the Secret Service field office in New York.

On paper, the Secret Service is the lead agency for the event, and its agents will guard dignitaries and delegates inside Madison Square Garden when the convention opens on Monday.

But the convention's true security heavyweight is the 36,500-member NYPD, which will deliver a show of force no other agency in the country, federal or local, could match: up to 10,000 uniformed and plainclothes officers patrolling the streets and subways around the arena.

Officials at the nation's largest police department are so confident of their ability to secure the event they rejected an offer by the state National Guard to put soldiers on the street. The NYPD intelligence division has studied the bombings in Madrid, which killed 190 people in the days leading up to an election, as a possible template for a New York attack during the convention and beyond.

The Department of Homeland Security will use customs agents to X-ray packages and delivery trucks. It will also provide sophisticated surveillance and communications equipment to watch for possible trouble both inside and outside the arena. And the FBI plans to have teams of agents on standby in midtown Manhattan, and would become the lead investigative agency if there is an attack.

Among the security team's less obvious players is the North American air command, or NORAD, which will secure air space over the convention with patrols by Air Force fighter pilots. In New York Harbor, the Coast Guard plans to test a new underwater 3-D sonar system to scan pier walls and ship bottoms for mines and other explosives.

The Postal Service will use its police force to protect the media center at the James A. Farley Building, the landmark post office opposite Madison Square Garden. Officers from Amtrak and the Metropolitan Transportation Authority will check for suspicious packages on commuters trains entering Penn Station beneath the arena.

The federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives has assigned bomb-sniffing dogs to the convention. It also will deploy one its four national response teams, comprised of explosive experts, to the city for the first time since the 1993 terrorist attack on the World Trade Center.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency, which usually doles out aid during natural disasters, says it will "pre-deploy" its emergency personnel to Manhattan on standby.

The EPA would respond to any environmental and health threats with mobile laboratories staffed with physicists and other experts who can quickly measure levels of radiation and airborne chemicals. The agency also has made ready its own 64-foot boat, which has a laboratory for testing water samples.