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Feds, CMPD give peek inside secret command center

Site near airport houses key players in response to any DNC threat

CHARLOTTE, N.C. There will be countless security hotspots in Charlotte during the Democratic National Convention, but the most secretive is a 17,000-square-foot office building near the airport, filled with tables, chairs and big-screen TVs.

It’s called the Multi-Agency Communication Center and it’s essentially the guts of the U.S. government – or at least the parts that matter when there’s a big, big problem.

Fifty-plus agencies have representatives at the center starting Sunday, ranging from the Environmental Protection Agency to the Federal Bureau of Investigation to the Secret Service.

Charlotte-Mecklenburg police and the National Guard are also there, along with little-known agencies like the White House Military Office and the Chemical Biological Incidents Response Force.

CMPD spokesman Officer Rob Tufano said his department has put in “a tremendous amount of advance planning” with the other agencies in the MACC. The goal, he said, is to develop “a seamless security plan that will ensure a safe environment for the community, dignitaries and event participants.”

The MACC’s 24-hour-a-day mission is to be ready for “eventualities” during the DNC, which could include everything from a massive interstate wreck to a terrorist attack with chemical weapons.

An expected visit from the president on Thursday heightens the importance of this mission, though Secret Service officials deny the MACC in Charlotte is any different from the center set up during the Republican National Convention in Tampa, Fla.

Every key player needed to respond to an incident will be in the room during the DNC, sitting next to phones labeled “Don’t disclose classified information. This telephone is subject to monitoring.”

The MACC is also monitoring Charlotte, watching local news on 14-foot-by-9-foot screens and eavesdropping via cameras on the streets and in the air. On Saturday, those cameras broadcast seemingly mundane scenes from city streets, Lynx stops and public buildings.

Multiple reporters asked during a Saturday media tour if the MACC would be monitoring social media. Authorities declined to say.

Secret Service officials say the idea of the MACC is to create a room where security issues can be evaluated and responses coordinated as quickly as possible.

However, there are limitations. Should fighter jets need to intercept mysterious planes straying into Charlotte’s restricted airspace, the command to do so would not emerge from the Charlotte MACC. “But we’d know about it,” said a National Guard spokesman.

Gary Wright contributed.

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