Inauguration crowd slated to top record
Security tight for ceremony, parade
WASHINGTON - Law enforcement officials bracing for the largest crowds in inaugural history are preparing far-reaching security - thousands of video cameras, sharpshooters, air patrols - to safeguard President-elect Barack Obama's swearing-in.
People attending the ceremony and parade on Jan. 20 can expect to be searched by machines, security personnel, or both. Precautions will range from the routine - magnetometers like those used at airports - to countersnipers trained to hit a target the size of a teacup saucer from 1,000 yards away. Plus undercover officers, bomb sniffing dogs, and air patrols.
The Secret Service, which is coordinating security, also has assigned trained officials to identify and prevent cyber security risks. And, as it does at every inauguration, the service has mapped out escape routes for the 44th president. In addition, Washington's 5,265 surveillance cameras, spread around the city, are expected to be fed into a multiagency command center.
"When you have an event like the inauguration, the more eyes we have in and around the city, the better off we are," District of Columbia Police Chief Cathy Lanier said. Streets will be closed within seven-to-eight blocks on both sides of Pennsylvania Avenue, and two-to-three blocks around each inaugural ball site, she said. The already-high security for inaugurations was intensified in January 2005, for the first swearing-in after the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, and this year's will follow that heightened model.
"I think you're going to get people from all walks of life come into Washington, so I think that there will be a tremendous influx of people that will come early, that will camp out early and that will probably remain, you know, to continue the festivities," said Nick Trotta, assistant director of the Secret Service's Protective Division.
At this point, the Secret Service does not have an estimate on how many people are expected for the inauguration. But officials expect to see more people at this inauguration than any other in the past. The National Park Service says the largest crowd ever on the National Mall was an estimated 1.2 million for President Lyndon B. Johnson's 1965 inauguration. Trotta acknowledged the reemergence of hate groups through the presidential campaign and since Obama's election. Threats against Obama have been more numerous than for any other president-elect in history.
"It is a very historic inauguration - it is the first African-American to be sworn in as president," Trotta said. "But that's just a factor. Of course we're not saying it doesn't play a role, but it's not the security issue."