By Citizen Spook, August 2nd, 2005
[UPDATE, August 5th, 2005. Chicago Tribune reported on July 29, 2005, 1:31 PM CDT:
"Police activity shut down the CTA Red Line subway during the lunch hour today, forcing trains to detour over the elevated structure through the Loop, officials said.The re-route began about 12:25 p.m. due to undisclosed police activity in the Red Line subway tunnel, a CTA spokeswoman said."]
Yesterday, August 1, 2005, official spokespersons from the Chicago Transit Authority's Media Relations department told Citizen Spook that the Chicago Police Department requested the CTA shut down the Red line on July 29th between 12:30 p.m. and 1:40 p.m. to accommodate "police activity", an "underground investigation".
A spokesman for Chicago Police, News Affairs Division, told Citizen Spook the July 29th "police activity" was in response to a "bomb threat", but CTA officials firmly denounced that in two separate interviews conducted just before and just after Citizen Spook spoke to Chicago PD.
The CTA spokeswoman stated unequivocally, "There was no bomb threat on July 29th."
A recap from the CTA Tattler blog:
"The Chicago Tribune is reporting today that the Red Line subway was shut down at about 12:30 today due to 'police activity.' The CTA Web site reports that the subway was reopened at about 1:40 p.m. The Red Line ran above ground on the Brown Line tracks until then..." http://kjo84.typepad.com/cta_tattler/2005/07/cops_shut_down_.html
[The CTA customer alert about Red line "police activity" on July 29th has been removed from the CTA web site. http://www.transitchicago.com/news/whatsnewA.wu?action=displaynewspostingdetail&articleid=127227]
INTERVIEWS WITH CHICAGO AUTHORITIES
On August 1st, between noon and 1:30PM, I conducted three "on the record" interviews with official spokespersons in the Media Relations department of the Chicago Transit Authority (CTA) and two "on the record" interviews with the Chicago Police Department, Division of News Affairs.
I attempted to get answers to the questions raised in Part 1 of this report. But the story only became murkier as more serious questions were raised by the two municipal agencies' issuance of conflicting versions of events pertaining to the Chicago subway incidents of July 18th and July 29th.
MY FIRST CONTACT WITH THE CTA
I contacted the CTA and conducted an interview with an official spokeswoman who went on the record and also gave me her name. However, after the interview was completed, the woman asked me not to print her name. I informed her that the request, coming after the interview had been completed, was troublesome since she agreed to be interviewed, and she willingly gave her name. She asked me to identify her as, "an official spokeswoman from the Media Relations Department of the CTA." I agreed to keep her name out of the report, but in a follow up interview I was able to put her superior, Sheila Gregory, on the record.
I first asked the unnamed CTA spokeswoman about the July 18th bomb threat and whether she was aware that the Chicago Tribune had published conflicting accounts of what caused the bomb scare. I related to her that a "suspicious package" was blamed in the July 19th Tribune article by Kyra Kyles, while a "phoned in" bomb threat was blamed in the July 22nd article written by Virginia Groark.
The unnamed CTA spokeswoman informed me she was not on duty at the time of the July 18th bomb scare. She suggested I speak with her superior. I then asked the unnamed CTA spokeswoman if a bomb threat was responsible for the Red Line being shut down on July 29th. She said with certainty, "Not that time. No. That did not involve a bomb threat. We were asked to close the Red line on July 29th so the police could conduct an investigation."
CS: "And there was no bomb threat involved?'
CTA spokeswoman: "No, not on July 29th."
CS: "Are you certain?"
CTA spokeswoman: "It was shut down for police activity."
I asked if it was common for the police to interrupt service for police activity if there was no bomb threat. She said it was uncommon and that usually the Chicago Police would be responding to a bomb threat or some other disturbance in the system. She said she couldn't recall, in the all the years she worked there, another incident where the Police shut down a CTA line just to conduct an investigation.
THE CHICAGO POLICE DEPARTMENT INTERVIEWS
Roosevelt Station on the Red line is in District 1 of the Chicago Police Department, but the female officer who answered the phone at the District 1 office refused to comment and insisted I speak to Chicago PD Headquarters.
OFFICER KUBIAK OF THE CHICAGO PD, DIVISION OF NEWS AFFAIRS
I called Chicago Police Headquarters and was referred to Officer Kubiak, a female police officer at the News Affairs division. I asked if she knew why the Chicago Police had given conflicting versions of the bomb threat on July 18th to the Chicago Tribune. She backtracked the info, asked me the names of the Tribune writers, the dates the stories appeared and the content. I answered her questions, and she took my e mail address and said she'd try to get back to me.
I then told Officer Kubiak that an official spokeswoman from the CTA informed me that the police had requested the Red Line be shut down on July 29th to conduct an investigation. I asked whether that investigation had anything to do with the July 18th bomb scare.
It was at this point things took a turn to the bizarre. Officer Kubiak seemed alarmed by this statement.
Officer Kubiak: "You have an anonymous source at the CTA?"
CS: "It was an official spokeswoman for the CTA operating out of the Media Relations department. She asked not to be identified by name in my story."
Officer Kubiak: "So you don't print her name in the story, but will you tell me her name?"
CS: "No, I don't want to do that."
Officer Kubiak: "And you expect me to comment on what an anonymous spokeswoman told you?"
CS: "No, Officer Kubiak, I expect you to tell me what happened on July 29th. I'm looking for the official word from the Chicago Police as to why the Red Line was shut down. You don't need to know the name of my CTA source to answer that question."
Officer Kubiak asked me to hold on.
THE MYSTERIOUS "OFFICER B" OF CPD, DIVISION OF NEWS AFFAIRS
A few minutes later, a man took over for Officer Kubiak. He asked for my name. I told him, "Citizen Spook." He said, "No, I want your real name." And I replied, "I write a blog called Citizen Spook, that is the name I write under. And I will be reposting this story at the CTA Tattler site. Who has Officer Kubiak transferred me to?"
And the man replied, "In that case, you can call me, 'Officer B' ".
I didn't push for his name because Officer Kubiak was on the record as transferring me to him, and it felt to me that "Officer B" was hostile to my inquiry.
I then ran down the two Tribune stories and inquired why the Chicago Police gave two conflicting accounts to the Tribune. I explained to him that, according to commuter reports, this was the worst travel day on the CTA in the last ten years. And he didn't take issue with that statement.
Officer B told me that on July 19th, "the best information" was that "a suspicious package" was left on the platform, but three days later the information had changed and the cold hard facts were a "phoned in bomb threat".
He was clearly parsing the issue.
CS: "That doesn't make sense. The July 22nd Tribune story by Virginia Groark doesn't mention a suspicious package. Was the bomb scare caused by a suspicious package or was it caused by a phoned in bomb threat?"
Officer B went silent for about five seconds.
Officer B: "It was a phoned in bomb threat about a suspicious package. How does that sound to you?"
It sounded like total bunk, and I immediately put him on a bluff then quickly turned his attention to July 29th.
CS: "So why did Chicago Police request the CTA shut the Red Line down on July 29th?"
Officer B: "There was a threat."
CS: "Was it a bomb threat?"
Officer B: "Yes, a bomb threat."
CS: "That completely contradicts the CTA's version of events. They deny there was a bomb threat on July 29th."
The line went dead. I don't know why. I can't say the man hung up on me, but I sure didn't hang up on him.
I called the Chicago Police back, got Officer Kubiak again, but she wouldn't talk to me and quickly put me on hold for a few minutes.
I decided to call the CTA back immediately for a reply comment rather than wait on hold indefinitely while CPD figured out what to say next.
Considering the magnitude of the July 18th CTA service disruption, the fact that it was the subject of a media black out, Officer B's attitude and inability to give a rational explanation of what happened along with his offering a contradictory version than the CTA's account of the Red line shut down on July 29th, I got the distinct impression that a cover up was under way.
My second interview with CTA officials totally reinforced that conclusion.
SECOND INTERVIEW WITH CTA OFFICIALS
I got back on the line with the same official CTA spokeswoman I'd spoken to earlier.
CS: The Chicago Police are saying the Red Line was shut down on July 29th due to a bomb threat.
CTA spokeswoman: "No.
CS: "No? Do you still maintain that there was no bomb threat on July 29th?"
CTA spokeswoman: "The police asked us to shut the Red line down for police activity."
CS: "And they never mentioned a bomb threat on July 29th?"
CTA spokewoman: "There was no bomb threat."
CS: "Since the Police are contradicting the CTA's version, I really need to get a name to put on this story. I don't want to use your name, but I must speak to somebody from the CTA who will go on the record."
SHEILA GREGORY FROM THE CTA, DEPARTMENT OF MEDIA RELATIONS
I was put on hold and another woman picked up the phone, introduced herself as Sheila Gregory from Media Relations. She was the unnamed spokeswoman's superior. Sheila Gregory agreed to give her name and be interviewed on the record.
We had a very long conversation. We had a very bizarre conversation.
I first inquired about the July 29th Red line shut down and recapitulated the account given by the other spokeswoman. Sheila Gregory was very specific in her response.
Gregory: "We were not informed by the Police why they wanted the Red Line shut down on July 29th. They just said 'police activity.' "
CS: Were you aware of any bomb threats on July 29th?'
Gregory: "The Police told us to clear the Red line for 'Police activity'.
I then asked her about the bomb threat of July 18th and this is where it gets nebulous. No matter how I phrased the question, and I phrased it many different ways, Sheila Gregory would not confirm or deny that there was a bomb threat on July 18th.
Gregory: "It's not our job to conduct investigations like that. You really need to speak with the Police about that."
CS: "I'm not asking if you conducted an investigation. I'm asking if you personally, or the CTA officially, were aware of a bomb threat at Roosevelt station or anywhere in the CTA subway on July 18th?"
Gregory: "We don't conduct criminal investigations. We are here for customer service."
CS: "So there was no bomb threat that you are aware of?"
Gregory: "You would have to ask the Police."
CS: "I'm asking if you personally were aware of a bomb threat on July 18th?"
Gregory: "I know what you're getting at, it's not Media Relations' job to conduct this kind of investigation. You need to speak with CPD."
I tried it one more time.
CS: "Can you just give me a yes or no answer? Were you aware of a bomb threat on July 18th in the Red line subway?"
Gregory: "I know you're looking for a quote, but you have to ask the police."
CS: "You do understand that the spokeswoman I spoke with earlier told me there was no bomb threat on July 29th. I'm going to print that. She doesn't want her name used, so I need to know from you, with respect to July 29th, if there was no bomb threat."
Gregory: "There was police activity underground on the Red line. We were not told by the police what that activity was."
CS: "But the other spokeswoman insisted there was no bomb threat on July 29th. Limiting your answer to just July 29th, can you confirm that?"
Gregory: "The police asked us to shut the Red line so they could go underground for police activity. "
CS: "Did they tell you personally or the CTA officially that there was a bomb threat on July 29th."
Gregory: "They only told us to shut the red line down for police activity."
CS: "Police activity underground in the Red line subway?"
CS: "If you don't want me to print the spokeswoman's name, I need you to confirm that the CTA was not aware of a bomb threat on July 29th."
Gregory: "We were not aware of a bomb threat on the 29th."
CS: "And on July 18th, were you aware of a bomb threat."
Gregory: "You need to ask the police about that. It was their investigation."
A final attempt.
CS: "Are you telling me that on the most chaotic travel day in the last ten years of CTA service, a day when the entire subway was brought to a stand still with thousands of commuters stranded, neither you nor the CTA can tell me whether the Chicago Tribune stories of July 19th and 22nd were accurate regarding there being a bomb threat?"
Gregory: "It's not our responsibility to investigate that. The police requested we shut the Red Line down and that's what we did. You really need to speak to them. I gave the Tribune the same information I'm giving you now."
CS: "Who did you speak to at the Tribune?"
Gregory: "I spoke to Virginia Groark."
CS: "And you didn't confirm that a bomb threat took place in the Red line of the CTA on July 18th?"
Gregory: "That's right. I told her to speak to the police."
Sheila Gregory did not deny that July 18th was the most chaotic CTA travel day in the last ten years.
This was insane. Regarding the July 29th incident, The CTA was willing to officially go on the record, through Gregory and the unamed spokeswoman, to contradict the Chicago Police Department's allegations that they shut the Red line down due to a bomb threat on July 29th.
But the CTA would not go on the record to confirm Chicago Police statements that there it was a bomb threat on July 18th which caused the most chaotic travel day in the last ten years.
THE DISAPPEARING CTA WEB SITE CUSTOMER ALERTS
I also asked Gregory why the CTA removed from its web site official CTA statements posted there on both July 18th and July 29th. She said it was "standard protocol" to remove such messages.
But the "press release" archive at the CTA site goes back to 1998.
She said, "The messages were customer alerts and we don't have a customer alert archive."
But the customer alerts listed at the CTA web site go back to 2004. She said some customer alerts had more impact than others.
QUESTIONS AND CONCLUSIONS
Why has the CTA refused to confirm Chicago Police assertions that a bomb scare took place in the Re line subway on July 18th?
Please recall the commuter reports in Part 1 of this story, commuter reports which unanimously testify to the CTA's inability to provide useful information to commuters on July 18th. And nothing has changed since then. The CTA isn't talking about July 18th.
July 29th is another story. The first CTA spokeswoman would not back down from her original statement, even in the face of the Chicago Police, News Affairs division, assertion that the Red line was shut down on July 29th due to a bomb threat.
She insisted that was not the case, and her superior, Sheila Gregory affirmed that reply. Gregory was "not aware" of a bomb threat on July 29th, and this is much different than what she said about July 18th. For the July 18th incident , she would not say whether she, or the CTA, was aware of a bomb threat or not aware of a bomb threat.
At one point she said, "I know you're trying to elicit a specific response for your story."
CS: "To be honest with you, it's a juicier story if you keep refusing to answer the question. It's a simple question. Either you know of a bomb threat or you don't. If you would say you were aware of a bomb threat, it's really a non issue because that would concur with the Tribune and the Chicago Police. But your evasiveness raises serious questions."
She kept to her pat statemement for all inquiries aboutJuly 18th. "You need to speak to CPD."
The July 19th Tribune report by Kyra Kyles doesn't mention a "phoned in" bomb threat.
The July 22nd Tribune report by Virginia Groark doesn't mention a "suspicious package".
Officer B said the July 18th bomb scare was caused by "a phoned in bomb threat about a suspicious package".
The CTA won't say whether they are aware of a bomb threat on July 18th.
If there was no bomb scare on July 29th, why were the Chicago Police going underground on the Red line?
This is the line which runs under the Dirksen Federal Courthouse where Patrick Fitzgerald's Grand Jury investigation is centered, the same red line that was shut down on July 18th.
If I were Patrick Fitzgerald, I'd pay attention to the Red line.
by Citizen Spook
Citizen Spook would like to hear from anybody who was using the CTA on July 18th or July 29th. Please e mail firstname.lastname@example.org
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