Bush library dedication tests Dallas security for days




Posted on April 23, 2013 at 4:45 PM

Updated Thursday, Dec 5 at 11:38 AM

DALLAS — The seats are set up, but won't stay empty for long.

On Thursday, they'll be filled, and the most important people in American politics for the last half-century will all be in one place: The SMU campus for the dedication of the George W. Bush Presidential Center.

Cameras are up. Guards are already on duty. And security expert "Avi" — who asks that his last name not be used — says the campus will likely be as safe as it possibly could be.

It's the rest of Dallas he worries about.

"Police will be here. Federal agents will be here. But I want to know who will be watching the DART station? Who will be watching Baylor Hospital? That's the target," he said.

Avi is the founder of Mayday, an organization that provides anti-terrorism strategies. He personally was an officer of the Israeli Intelligence Services and a former government special agent. He has trained schools, universities, police and corporations to find potential threats by teaching behavior recognition and crowd screening.

He has even trained the FBI.

"The home-grown are the real danger," he said. "Those guys live here and they know the city and they see the news and they know what's happening. They are not impressed with the ceremony here and the Secret Service."

The people in charge of security admit it is a tough task, which is why practically every police officer in Dallas will be on duty protecting the dignitaries at the dedication — while ensuring the rest of the city isn't vulnerable.

"That's the balancing act we have to meet," said Dallas Police Chief David Brown. "Making sure we continue to keep the city safe along with making sure all the key areas related to the library [are] secure."

"You know, there are 13 presidential libraries," he added. "In most dedications, all living presidents attend, so there is a template for this."

Chief Brown cited months of planning and training.

The city's Emergency Operations Center will be open. And because many of the dignitaries will arrive in Dallas on Wednesday — including the president and Michelle Obama — high security will be in place for days.

The Obamas will travel from Dallas to a memorial in Waco on Thursday for victims of the fertilizer plant explosion in West.

That means police across the city and the state will be on alert.

E-mail twoodard@wfaa.com