Protesters who could be violent are on Oahu and being tracked by law enforcement.

That’s according to Frank Montoya, special agent in charge of the FBI’s Honolulu Division, who spoke to reporters today at a Multi-Agency Communications Center in Honolulu established just for APEC.

“Are there indications that some of these kinds of individuals are on the island? The answer is yes,” he said. “They have a propensity for violence. Are they doing anything that is causing us concern right now? The answer is no. But, we are paying attention to who they are. We have investigations against some of them. And the key there is just to make sure that we can try to mitigate a problem before it becomes a problem. To respond to it before it becomes (a problem).”

Montoya said authorities would protect lawful First Amendment protest, and that the protests won’t be monitored or investigated.

“I think one of the very first things that we are very careful to do is that we are very careful to protect the First Amendment rights of every person on this island, every American, to be able to express their opinions, to protest freely without having to worry about someone watching,” he said.

Monotoya continued:

“At the same time, as we’ve seen around the world in some of these demonstrations, there are individuals that want to cause trouble, that want to break the law. And so, the interagency effort, essentially, is to identify those individuals and try to (prevent) them from destruction of property, or worse, hurting people. And that’s an ongoing process.”

Thus far, local protests associated with APEC have been peaceful.

Thirty people were arrested over the past few days — eight at an Occupy Honolulu event on Saturday targeting APEC, and 22 at a Hawaiian sovereignty protest at Iolani Palace on Monday. Another Occupy Honolulu protest — at the Hawaii Convention Center — was set for Tuesday afternoon.

But, violence has marked past APEC summits and for those of other international economic organizations.

Communication — and Secrecy — Key

It’s the first time the U.S. Secret Service has secured an island for a high-level government meeting. That posed a logistical challenge to get the appropriate equipment and personnel on island.

The federal officials said one benefit of the island location, however, is that all the local agencies know each other well and that has improved overall coordination.

As Honolulu Police Chief Louis Kealoha observed, agencies have had a year and a half to prepare for APEC.

At the Multi-Agency Communications Center — aka MACC — press tour Tuesday, state, county, federal and military officials stressed that communications among multiple government agencies would be central in ensuring “operational security and public safety.”

Reporters and photographers from seven Honolulu-based media organizations, including Civil Beat, were on hand to hear from the U.S. Secret Service — the lead security agency for APEC — the FBI, the Honolulu police and fire departments, the Hawaii National Guard, the U.S. Coast Guard and other agencies.

The event was not an “open” media availability; the media were screened ahead of time, and photography and access were restricted. Slated for an hour, it only lasted half as long.

In fact, the media are not allowed to even report where MACC is located, other than to say it is in Honolulu. (Like Dick Cheney during the 9/11 attacks, it is in a “secure, undisclosed” location.)

While photos of the MACC interior were permitted, no exterior shots were allowed.

The interior resembled the CTU (Central Terrorism Unit) on the television drama “24” — lots of computers, phones and giant video screens — except that it was well lit and staffed by people who did not look camera-ready for Hollywood. There were also a lot of military personnel wearing their “BDUs,” or camouflage battle-dress uniforms.

The mission of the MACC, as explained by Max Milien, the Secret Service assistant special agent in charge, is to serve as a “situation awareness” and “common operational” center — a “clearing house for information” for law enforcement, the media and the public.

“All information should come in and out of here,” said Derek Verdeyen, the Secret Service’s deputy assistant director of protection operations. “We will try to achieve a higher awareness of situations.”

On Tuesday, 48 people were operating at MACC. At its peak, beginning Friday and running through Sunday, MACC will house 71 people from agencies ranging from Honolulu’s Emergency Medical Services to the U.S. Department of Energy, from United States Pacific Command to the Aviation Security Operations Center.

Each agency’s work station, connected to AC outlets and modem lines, is identified by its acronym — e.g., EMS, DOE, PACOM and ASOC. (The ASOC was located behind a black curtan, off-limits to unauthorized personnel.)

Milien declined to say exactly how many law enforcement people are deployed for APEC, calling it a security matter.

Real Time Coverage

During the media tour, the three giant screens revealed little.

One screen depicted the badges of the various agencies; another appeared to show four video feeds from a Waikiki hotel (the Hale Koa, as best as could be surmised).

The middle screen was the most interesting. Though it was a mock setup, it showed a blue grid with dates, times, locations and descriptions of potential scenarios.

One described an individual pulling a pistol at the Hotel Modern in Waikiki, where the Russian delegation is staying. Another concerned a chlorine leak from Campbell Industrial Park, moving south-southwest at 5 to 10 miles per hour.

As much as possible, law enforcement will seek to issue warnings to citizens who violate a security zone — say, the waters of Waikiki this weekend. As a Coast Guard official noted, there are 60,000 people in Waikiki each day, and there are bound to be people who are not aware of all the security restrictions.

If violations continue, however, they will result in felony charges.

One other development: The Secret Service will be setting up a Twitter feed this week, a first for the agency that is finally recognizing the value of social media.

Honolulu Mayor Peter Carlisle showed up late to the MACC media event, having been detained at an APEC-related function at Kamehameha Schools. But he had his soundbite ready.

“You cannot take a look at this facility and listen to what they have to say without recognizing that this is the epitome of cooperation and coordination,” he said. “And that’s exactly what we need, and what will precisely allow us to be on time, on schedule, doing those things that we need to do There will be bumps in the road, and this place will help us get through and over them.”

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