Speaker To See Higher Security
Bin Laden’s bounty on U.N. Secretary General Annan prompts screening measures
Unlike last year, attendees will be screened and their bags will be searched at this year’s Commencement, scheduled for June 10.
The Associated Press reported last Thursday that a 20-minute audio recording posted on two websites which frequently post militant Islamic messages is believed to be from Osama bin Laden.
In the recording, he offered rewards of 10,000 grams of gold worth $125,000 for the killing of either L. Paul Bremer, Kofi Annan or his envoy to Iraq, Lakhdar Brahimi.
In 2002, the arrest of a Palestinian activist and suspected terrorist in Harvard Square just a week before Commencement—along with concerns surrounding the “American Jihad” speech by Zayed M. Yasin ’02, a World Bank protest at MIT planned for the day after and post-Sept. 11 concerns—led the University to use metal detectors and search bags that year.
Harvard University Police Department (HUPD) spokesperson Steven G. Catalano said though HUPD will not comment on specific security measures, the attendees will be screened in some form this year.
In addition, attendees will be strongly discouraged from bringing bags to the event because all items will be searched, according to Catalano.
A spokesperson for Annan said yesterday that the Secretary-General is still slated to speak at Commencement.
“As far as I know he’s still on tap to give the commencement speech,” Annan’s spokesperson Farhan A. Haq said. “Given these threats, we are taking the appropriate measures and consulting with the U.S. government as the host country.”
Haq said Annan has safely traveled to the Boston area in the past and worked with appropriate security agencies.
“I know that whenever we travel, [U.N.] security coordinates with security on the ground,” he said. “We’ve done these arrangements with security officials before, and I imagine we’ll do something similar.”
Catalano said HUPD will “coordinate and work with local and federal agencies to ensure the safety of all the attendees.”
University Marshal Jacqueline A. O’Neill said yesterday that though she can’t comment on the details of security, her office is confident that the cooperating agencies will keep Commencement safe, terror threat or otherwise.
“In the brave new world that we live in, security at Commencement has been increased,” O’Neill said. “I think we feel comfortable that the plan is in place and it will work, and that would happen with or without any outside threats.”
Harvard Alumni Association Executive Director John P. Reardon Jr. ’60 also said that appropriate officials will coordinate any security measures in response to the terror threat.
“The whole issue of security is in the hands of those police and those working with the government and the UN,” Reardon said. “They will determine what the security arrangements will be.”
—Staff writer Hana R. Alberts can be reached at email@example.com.