The Republican National Convention hasn't started yet, but both opponents and supporters are already engaging in treachery and double-dealing worthy of Spy vs. Spy.
Don Hajicek, a 36-year-old graphic artist from Wyoming, was planning to travel 2,000 miles to New York City to join the anti-GOP protests and stay at an apartment belonging to a sympathetic New Yorker.
But then he learned that the person who had offered him accommodation had tricked him, and the shelter he had been promised was a lie.
When planning his trip, Hajicek found an offer of housing on an Internet bulletin board for would-be protesters, CounterConvention.org.
The host — describing himself as "an architect who specializes in low income housing" — was so accommodating that Hajicek became suspicious. "I'm originally from Chicago, so I didn't just fall off the turnip truck," Hajicek told ABCNEWS.com by telephone.
With a few Google searches, he found a posting by someone with the same Web name as his host on FreeRepublic.com, a conservative discussion forum. The posting suggested giving fake offers of accommodation to anti-Republican protesters, and gave the Web address for the bulletin board Hajicek had consulted. "Anyone interested in providing housing for lice-ridden protesters?," it read.
Another member of the forum apparently took up the suggestion, writing a few minutes later: "Offered space in an existing building. Of course, the building in question is a bar, but they won't know that until they get there. Hope I can make this work."
Hajicek said he thought the scam was "kinda sorta funny," but it also left him angry enough to draw attention to it. He turned to DailyKos.com, a progressive political forum, to warn "others out there who are depending on the kindness of strangers." He said the fake offer had ruined his plans to go to New York, but added "it certainly would have been worse if we'd actually gone there expecting a place to stay."
Both Sides Guilty
Double-dealing isn't limited to one side of the political debate though. For weeks, opponents of the convention have been threatening to stage a "Shadow Protest" — signing up en masse as volunteers and disappearing when they're most needed.
The protest Web site RNCnotwelcome.org contains a "tactics" section with headlines asking "Why not sign up now to volunteer to work for the convention and then miss your shift!" and touting, "Activists infiltrate RNC events".
The Web site contains a caveat: "Listing of tactical resources does not imply an endorsement of said tactics for any or all circumstances. They are here for informational and historical reasons."
But other left-wing sites have posted proud accounts of infiltration. On Indymedia.org, one article headlined "Protesters Get Into Two RNC Events … (So Can You)," was a protester's account of crashing a Republican event.
"After covering the bathroom with our own agit-prop, we cleared the table of their Bush crap and replaced it with our own," the protester wrote.
Republican officials and convention organizers said they were aware of the threats, but are not convinced that they will have much of an impact.
"We are extremely happy with the overwhelming response to our call for volunteers," Ethan Davidson of NYC Host Committee 2004 said.
Ruining Their Image