By Brad Friedman from Phoenix, AZ...
With more than 3,000 counties in the United States of America, only heavily Republican Warren County, Ohio --- one of the last to report election results in the Buckeye State that night --- took action on Election Night 2004 to lock out members of the public and the media from their tabulation room.
The president of the county's Board of Commissioners claimed at the time that during a "face-to-face meeting between the FBI and our director of emergency services we were informed that on a scale from one to 10...Warren County in particular was rated at 10, 10 being the top highest risk."
Nobody, however, in Warren County has ever named the supposed FBI official who gave the warning, and to this day, the director of the county's Department of Emergency Services, Frank R. Young, will not reveal the name of the official with whom he claims he spoke, even as the FBI maintains "there was no information given to Warren County of an imminent terrorist threat to that county or to Southern Ohio," and that "None of our agents...advised of any type of any terrorist threat or anything like that."
Additionally, no one has ever been held accountable for what happened.
During The BRAD BLOG's exclusive interview last December with Ohio's new Secretary of State, Jennifer Brunner, she was asked about the infamous Warren County Lockdown and encouraged to investigate the matter to ensure something similar would not be allowed to occur during the 2008 election. She noted that she was still "troubled" by the '04 incident and "[couldn't] find any justification for it."
"We'll look again at that situation and see what the best course of action is to prevent it from happening in the future," she promised at the time.
The Cincinnati Enquirer picked up on that section of our interview at the time, and now, going on four years since the Lockdown occurred --- first reported by The BRAD BLOG on November 8, 2004 --- a mainstream corporate media outlet has finally taken the issue seriously enough to devote some resources to a legitimate investigation.
Jon Craig's investigative report in Sunday's Cincinnati Enquirer notes: "Among those locked out were an Enquirer reporter, a TV reporter, and a stringer from the Associated Press." He goes on to report that "(t)he AP had stringers at all 88 boards of elections, and only in Warren County were they not allowed in."
Despite a misleading summary early in Craig's article, asserting the paper has "learned...A casual conversation about terrorism between the county emergency services director and a friendly FBI agent in a parking lot may have been the final trigger for the lockdown," what's clear is that to this day, no one from the FBI has ever come forward to substantiate Young's claims. Even today, while Young is taking responsibility for recommending the lockdown, he's sticking to his story that it was his conversation with an FBI official --- whom he still refuses to name --- that led him to his decision.
Both the FBI and the Warren County Sheriff tell Craig that Young's claims, essentially, are complete bullshit...
On that crucial point, from today's Enquirer report:
He said it was inspired, in part, by a conversation he had with an FBI agent in October, while planning security for an unrelated public event. That conversation took place in the parking lot of the Hamilton Township Administration Building.
Young asked the FBI agent how seriously to take the threats. The agent – whom Young would not identify – told him: “We take it very seriously. There are factions in this country that want to go after – and see disruption of whatever it is – whether it’s an election or whatever.’’
Young said the conversation “was not necessarily what prompted the actions...We just wanted to have some extra protection around the building, because you never know what kind of a nut is out there.’’
But Warren County Sheriff Tom Ariss has a different recollection of decisions leading to the lockdown: “My understanding is the FBI was never contacted. They never talked to anybody.”
The FBI looked into whether anyone had told Warren County authorities about a threat to the board of elections, FBI spokesman Michael Brooks said last week.
“We concluded that there was no information given to Warren County of an imminent terrorist threat to that county or to Southern Ohio,’’ Brooks said. “None of our agents did anything wrong (or) advised of any type of any terrorist threat or anything like that.’’
In an interview last week, Ariss insisted that Young “would never talk to anybody (from the FBI) in a parking lot, because they wouldn’t know who the hell he was. But I better keep my mouth shut,” he said with a laugh. “I won’t even touch it. Just knowing the FBI, they would have no reason to be up here...Had there been any concern, it should have been addressed to us because we are the provider of security on the county buildings.’’
In other words, Young was then, and continues to be, full of shit. Yet neither he, nor any members of the County Commission, have faced accountability for their decision or for their misleading statements to the media, which led to robbing the public of their ability to monitor the tabulation of their own Presidential Election, in one of the handful of counties where the fully faith-based results, as reported, tipped the scales to give George W. Bush an alleged victory for four more years.
As we must hit the road again this afternoon, we urge you to read Craig's full report for yourself for additional notable details and documents as collected from interviews, public records requests, and more.
But one more item of note, for the moment, is that even today --- even after all of the books and reports on what happened in Ohio, including Robert F. Kennedy Jr.'s '06 report documenting in great detail "How 350,000 Votes Disappeared in Ohio" --- representatives of John Kerry's '04 campaign still stand by their reprehensibly unforgivable decision not to keep their infamous campaign promise assuring that "every vote will be counted."
A spokesperson reaffirms that decision in Craig's article, even though the reported results were so close that a mere 6 votes registered for Kerry instead of Bush in each Ohio precinct would have changed the outcome of the election. The "official" margin of "victory" for Bush in Ohio was just over 118,000 votes.
"Bush still carried the state by a large enough margin that it seems unlikely...that even with all of these errors that Kerry could have won Ohio," Kerry's Ohio legal counsel, Cincinnati attorney Daniel J. Hoffheimer, tells the Enquirer today, as many of the same DNC attorneys across the country prepare to "protect" your votes again in 2008.