When the city of Boston applied to host the Democratic Party presidential nominating convention of July 2004, it did so in the belief that the event would bring the city both prestige and economic benefit. But by the time the convention was to be held, the terrible events of September 11, 2001 had intervened and, as a designated "national special security event," the convention was now subject to the tightest possible measures for security and protection. As a result, key sections of the city, and miles of roads, were virtually shut down in order to permit the convention to take place in the city's major indoor sports arena, and the event engendered complaints, not plaudits, from citizens and business owners alike. This case tells the story of the planning that preceded the convention, as federal officials by presidential directive in charge of national special security events found themselves having to balance expectations of a civic celebration with their own grave concerns about terrorist threats. The case is divided into three parts. Part A (1807.0) describes the elaborate planning process set up by the US Secret Service, which had overall responsibility for security planning for the convention, and the disputes among local, state and federal officials as to how draconian security measures had to be; it focuses in particular on two of the thorniest issues facing planners: whether to shut down a busy public transit station and a portion of a major interstate highway providing access to Boston from the north. Part B (1808.0) details the complex negotiations to resolve these and other security matters; the Epilogue (1808.1) provides a brief overview of the implementation of the security plan at the convention.
The case is designed both to facilitate discussion about the ways in which emergency preparedness overlaps with political considerations, and to highlight the nature of inter-governmental relations in the American system.