Paper That Originally Reported Disturbing Matter Asks for Fresh Tips, Notes SoS Brunner Claims Concern About Situation as 2008 Elections Loom
FLASHBACK: Details of the Warren County Lockdown as Reported in 2004...
By Brad Friedman on 12/22/2007, 3:39pm PT  

The Cincinnati Enquirer, the paper that originally reported on the still-unresolved case of Warren County, Ohio's tabulation room lockdown on Election Night in 2004, has taken note of the comments made by OH Sec. of State, Jennifer Brunner in The BRAD BLOG's exclusive interview with her last week.

They highlight our exchange with the Secretary, concerning the lack of investigation, by her office, or any other, into the specious "Homeland Security warning" that county officials claimed had forced them to impose an unprecedented lock out, of both the media and public, denying them the ability to observe the tabulation in the counting room on Election Night. Warren County was one of the last counties in the Buckeye State to report their results in 2004 and went overwhelmingly for George W. Bush.

Brunner told us during our interview last week that she found the issue "troubling," and said that she still "can'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 us.

We argued that the best course of action is to bring accountability in order to send the message that such behavior will not be tolerated again.

At this time, the issue remains uninvestigated, the FBI and Dept. of Homeland Security deny issuing any such warnings to Warren or any other county in Ohio, and many of the county officials responsible for the unprecedented lockdown in 2004, in violation of state law, as well as the same county prosecutor, all remain in charge as another Presidential Election is set to begin in 2008.

Two of the Enquirer's original reports on the disturbing matter are posted here and here.

A very quick review of the reportage at the time, naming the names of those who were complicit, and the federal agencies that denied any such threat, follows...

As the Enquirer reporter, Erica Solvig, initially reported at the time:

Warren County Emergency Services Director Frank Young said he had recommended increased security based on information received from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security and the Federal Bureau of Investigation in recent weeks.

[County] Commissioners made the security decisions in a closed-door meeting last week, but didn't publicize the restrictions that were made until after polls closed.
Typically, the Warren County commissioners' room is set up as a gathering place for people to watch the votes come in. But that wasn't done this year.

And despite being told that there would be an area with telephones set up for the media, those who tried to get into the [County Administration] building on Justice Drive were stopped by a county employee who stood guard outside.

County Prosecutor Rachel Hutzel, who remains in the same position today, told the paper at the time that the Election Commissioners "were within their rights" to restrict building access, though she did not elaborate on those "rights".

In a follow-up report, the paper noted:

Now, [county Commissioners] say an FBI agent told them that Warren County ranked a "10" [out of 10] on a terrorism scale. However, state and federal homeland security officials said Tuesday they were unaware of any specific threat against the county.
Frank Young, the county's emergency services director...said he recommended the security precautions after getting information from an FBI agent during a conversation about general Election Day threats. Young refused to identify the agent Tuesday.
Officials at the FBI, which oversees anti-terrorism activities in southern Ohio, said they received no information about a terror threat in Warren County.

"The FBI did not notify anyone in Warren County of any specific terrorist threat to Warren County before Election Day," FBI spokesman Michael Brooks said.

A spokeswoman for Ohio's top homeland security official, Public Safety Director Ken Morckel, knew of no heightened terror warning for either Warren County or any other Greater Cincinnati community on election night.

Two weeks later, after receiving documents from county officials via a public records requests, Solvig reported that the lockdown had been secretly planned well in advance of Election Night, but not announced until after the close of polls.

To our knowledge, the matter has never been seriously investigated by any state or federal officials since it was first reported back in 2004.

Our own coverage of the matter was originally posted here on November 8, 2004, and updated several times thereafter with additional developments.

In the wake of Brunner's statements during our interview last week, the Enquirer is welcoming comments and asking for any fresh tips from insiders. So are we.

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