Leslie Weise of
the Denver Three Asks On Whose Authority They Were Expelled? It Sure Wasn't
the Secret Service ...
A BUZZFLASH INTERVIEW
The next step is the step we’ve been wanting all along, and we
still haven’t reached -- which is to find out who did this to us. More
importantly, who instructed him, and the people he was working with,
to throw us out of the event? We also need to find out why – what is
the set of instructions given to these people? And does that cross the
* * *
On March 21st, 2005, at a town hall meeting about President
Bush’s plan to privatize social security -- an official Presidential event
paid for by your tax dollars – three Americans (Alex Young, 25, an IT
professional; Karen Bauer, 38, a marketing coordinator and Leslie Weise,
39, a lawyer) were forcibly removed from the audience before the event
started without any explanation. Later it was confirmed by the Secret
Service that the man who forcibly removed the “Denver 3” was not a Secret
Service agent – an incident that has prompted the agency to launch a criminal
The next day, Young, Bauer and Weise were told by the Secret Service that
they were removed because the car they drove to the event had a bumper
sticker that read “No More Blood for Oil.”
Amidst White House Press Secretary Scott McClellan’s stonewalling,
contradictory explanations, and refusal to reveal the man’s identity,
McClellan announced last week that suspicion is all the White House needs
to forcibly remove Americans from an official Presidential event and deny
them their constitutional rights. Of course this was not the first time
Americans were removed or prohibited from attending one of Bush’s “town
halls,” but it highlights a disturbing pattern from the White House to
erode our civil rights.
We spoke with Leslie Weise about what happened at Bush’s town hall on
March 21st and the “Denver 3’s” hot pursuit of the mystery man whom they
were led to believe was a Secret Service agent.
* * *
BuzzFlash: Last week Scott McClellan admitted
that the White House unilaterally reserves the right to forcibly remove
any American from a taxpayer-funded, official Presidential event, based
on the suspicion that an attendee might disrupt the event. It seems that
the strategy of preemption has now permeated into the domestic arena,
dictating who is allowed to hear the President speak or not – or who will
have their constitutional rights denied or not. This is a disturbing trend.
Clearly what happened to you, the “Denver 3,” was not an accident or a
mistake, but part of a larger strategy to keep anyone who disagrees with
the President away from the President.
Leslie Weise: That’s made clear from the fact that this
has been a repeating occurrence at town hall meetings. This happened not
only to us, but also to a student in Tucson, Arizona, the same day of
our encounter. It happened in Fargo, North Dakota, where 42 people were
denied entry because they had some affiliation with an organization or
a viewpoint that was in some way different from Bush’s. And it happened
in New Hampshire, where a few middle-aged women were removed from the
event because of t-shirts they were wearing. So not only has Scott McClellan
admitted it, but they’ve shown that it is a pattern.
BuzzFlash: You have a lawyer. You guys are hot on the
case. You have been pressuring the powers-that-be in the White House to
release the identity of the man who evidently impersonated a Secret Service
agent – which prompted the Secret Service to launch a criminal investigation.
The White House and the Secret Service know the identity of the “mystery
man” but they won’t release his name. What’s the next step for the “Denver
Leslie Weise: The next step is the step we’ve been wanting
all along, and we still haven’t reached -- which is to find out who did
this to us. More importantly, who instructed him, and the people he was
working with, to throw us out of the event? We also need to find out why
– what is the set of instructions given to these people? And does that
cross the Constitutional line?
We believe preemptively and forcibly removing Americans from seeing the
President based solely on suspicions from the White House – or because
we drove to the event with a ‘No More Blood for Oil” bumper sticker –
does violate the Constitution. Clearly our First Amendment rights were
violated. We were denied the opportunity to participate in this public
event despite holding valid tickets, which we received from Republican
Congressman Bob Beauprez. It is disturbing to us, as it should be to all
Americans, that the threat of having a different viewpoint on any policy
with the Bush administration means that action is going to be taken against
you. Quite frankly, you’ll be considered un-American.
BuzzFlash: The Secret Service has launched a criminal
investigation into the matter to determine whether or not the man who
conducted himself as a Secret Service agent committed a crime. Do you
think the Secret Service will find some way to push this issue under the
rug? Will they conclude that, because the man never said “I am a Secret
Service agent,” they will not disclose his identity and not file criminal
charges against him?
Leslie Weise: It’s entirely possible that they will handle
it that way. We’re hoping that they handle this in a very fair and honest
way. We’re hopeful that they’ll do right thing.
I think the bigger issue is the fact that this person was acting with
a group of people in a coordinated effort to make this man appear as a
Secret Service agent. Karen and I were told, before we were allowed to
enter the event, to stand and wait for Secret Service to arrive. Now in
all fairness, the man who arrived never said, “I’m in the Secret Service.”
Karen and Alex had asked who he was, but he did not respond. We had every
other reason to believe he was Secret Service. We were told to wait for
Secret Service by Jay Bob Klinkerman – who has been identified this past
week by the Rocky Mountain News as head of the Colorado Young
Republicans -- and he was helping to manage the event. We were told by
Jay Bob to wait here until Secret Service arrived.
When this man arrived with an earpiece, the lapel pen and the dark suit,
and the short haircut, we had every reason to believe he was Secret Service,
because we were handed off by Jay Bob to him. This man then threatened
us with arrest multiple times.
After we were inside the event, this man, who we believed was Secret Service,
was definitely communicating with people through his earpiece and with
other people who helped him forcibly remove us from the event. We had
every reason to believe he was Secret Service, and other people were involved
in making us believe he was a Secret Service agent.
BuzzFlash: One thing to point out is that he also threatened
other people at the event with arrest and forcible removal if they attempted
to disturb the town hall.
Leslie Weise: That’s an excellent point. That was one
more reason we believed he was Secret Service, because Karen and I, before
we were allowed to enter the event, were told by this man that we would
be arrested. Three separate times, he said the word “arrest.” And then,
as you referenced, after we were removed from the event, this same man
went to the entire seating section and threatened everyone with arrest
if something happened. Max Tyler kept notes of all this in his palm organizer
as he watched this man threaten everyone in that seating section with
BuzzFlash: Clearly the White House knows who he is, as
does the Secret Service. Why do you think the White House is stonewalling
on releasing this man’s identity? Is it to try to prevent a wider investigation
into, as you have indicated, a system involving several people orchestrating
Bush’s town halls to permit only the faithful to attend and keep dissenters
Leslie Weise: I can only surmise why they’re not willing
to to disclose the man’s name. I think their standard response that he
was an “overzealous volunteer” seems to have worn out. That may have worked
the first couple times that this happened, but now this has happened to
people on more than a couple occasions. The facts show that there was
more than one person involved and this was a coordinated effort by a group
of people. And to the extent that the White House was potentially directly
involved in giving instructions to these people, who clearly violated
our Constitutional rights, then I can just surmise that that might be
the reason they’re not cooperating, because there may have been laws broken.
BuzzFlash: Trace for us how the White House has been contradicting
itself and has been contradicted by both the Colorado Republican Party
and the Secret Service.
Leslie Weise: Well, the very next day, Karen and I started
calling the Secret Service to try to get answers as to why this had happened
to us, because we had been given no explanation up to that point. On the
day that it happened, the only thing we were told was that it was a private
event and we had to leave, to which I had responded, “Well, we have tickets.”
So the whole time this was happening to us, we were asking a lot of questions
– Alex, Karen and myself – but were given no answers.
The following day, Karen called the Secret Service office in Washington,
D.C. and I called the local branch. I finally was successful in getting
someone to talk to us about the incident. It was disclosed to me at that
time the Secret Service was very apologetic that this had happened to
us. They told us it was not one of their agents who did this to us, and
that it was a “Republican staffer from the host committee.” And that was
repeated again when we had a face-to-face meeting with the Secret Service
and our lawyer. They were not willing to give us the name of the person.
But they had interviewed him, and they had written a report, and they
had sent the summary of that report to the Washington branch of the Secret
Service – if we are going to get the name, it would have to be through
the Washington office of the Secret Service. Our attorney has contacted
that office a couple times but has not received a response.
Of course the White House had been saying that it was a volunteer, which
seems to contradict what the Secret Service was saying. The other point
is the Secret Service told us in conversations by phone the day after
the event, and later in our face-to-face meeting with them, that the bumper
sticker on my car was the specific reason we were removed.
Now the White House is saying something different. The White House is
saying the people who removed us or the person who removed us had reason
to believe we were going to disrupt the town hall. But we had not done
anything disruptive or talked about being disruptive. Our dress was very
much like anyone else at the event. We were not wearing any buttons or
anything to stand out. There was nothing anti-Bush on our persons.
BuzzFlash: The devil is always in the details. The thing
that strikes me about what happened in Denver, Colorado, was it proves
there were several people involved. One, somebody had to have been looking
for or saw the bumper sticker on your car. Two, that person communicated
that information, and your identity, to people who were managing the audience
coming into the event. Three, those checking your IDs had to communicate
with this mystery man who, half an hour later, forcibly removed you before
the event even started.
Leslie Weise: That’s exactly right. Other people had
to have been involved. Even if the Mystery Man was also the person who
saw the bumper sticker as we drove in, somehow that information was communicated
to the people at the entrance to the event who told us to step aside,
and then told us to wait for Secret Service to arrive. It could not have
been just one “overzealous volunteer” as the White House claimed.
BuzzFlash: It’s been wonderful to observe how the three of you
have pursued the facts and wouldn’t let the incident just get brushed
aside. As far as we can tell, it seems that the media out in Denver and
in Colorado are following your lead. You’ve made it a story. And yet,
so much of the time, the mainstream media won’t follow a story or even
bother to ask follow-up questions. It’s almost as if the three of you
are teaching the mainstream media a thing or two about investigative reporting.
Leslie Weise: I have to say I would like to give a lot
of credit to the Denver media for following this proactively on their
own. Jim Spencer from The Denver Post is the reporter who broke
the story about Max and Susan Tyler being threatened with arrest by this
same mystery man. Ann Imse of the Rocky Mountain News has done
a lot of follow up and got the leads on her own. So I would give the Denver
media a lot of praise.
Now, that said, we have been pursuing this very much on
our own in calling on our Congressional leaders to get involved, to which
there’s been a very positive response. In particular, Rep. Mark Udall’s
(D-CO) office has been very proactive. We weren’t aware in advance of
the actions he’s taken and the letters he sent out until the media reported
it. I think it’s been a nice mix of our own grassroots effort to try to
get answers to these questions, and the Denver media and politicians acting
on their own.
BuzzFlash: The White House has a pattern, a toolkit,
if you will, to avoid accountability. One tactic is just waiting and delaying
the question or an investigation until the story just gets pushed off
the headlines. One way or the other, the Secret Service is going to have
to come up with some finding. Was there a crime committed or wasn’t there?
Did this mystery man impersonate a Secret Service agent or not? You’re
not letting up. The White House is in a corner. It all rests on the release
of this information from the Secret Service, and the time when they will
release their conclusion is the unknown variable. So how do you keep this
issue alive, keep it relevant, and keep pressuring the White House to
release the name?
Leslie Weise: Well, we certainly don’t intend to let this matter
be brushed under the rug. We believe that we deserve an answer because
our Constitutional rights were violated without us having done anything
wrong, other than, in the eyes of the White House, having a viewpoint
that’s different than President Bush's. I think what’s interesting about
our story is it’s not just our word against the White House. It’s the
Secret Service’s statements and what they’ve told us against the White
House. Somebody has to come up with answers to the questions.
We will pursue this through legal channels if we have to. If we feel that
the Secret Service is hiding something or hiding the truth from us, we
will pursue this and hopefully obtain the answers through the legal process.
BuzzFlash: Leslie, thank you so much for speaking with
us. Your perseverance and Alex's and Karen’s is amazing.
Leslie Weise: Thank you.
A BUZZFLASH INTERVIEW
* * *
Memo from The Denver Three: A Compilation of Information on the White
House Excluding Citizens from Taxpayer-Funded Events, April 28, 2005
Jay Bob Klinkerman, Head of Colorado Young Republicans, Is Uncovered by
Denver 3 in Connection to Their Forced Removal at Bush Public Event, But
Mystery Man Who Allegedly Criminally Impersonated a Secret Service Agent
Still Not Revealed by WH, April 27, 2004 http://www.buzzflash.com/analysis/05/04/ana05009.html
White House Admits that It -- Not "Zealous Volunteers" -- are
keeping American Citizens from Tax-Payer Funded "Bush Town Hall Meetings,
April 19, 2005
Three puzzle pieces still don't fit (Jim Spencer/The Denver Post)
House weighs in on ouster: Bush aide: Belief someone plans to disrupt
is enough (Ann Imse/Rocky Mountain News)
want to find GOP mystery man
(Jim Spencer/The Denver Post)
quiet as Denver 3 make noise (Jim Spencer/The Denver Post)