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Inauguration security to be highest ever

President-elect Barack Obama's inauguration is expected to set many records _ from the largest crowds, to most bridges closed to the highest security of any president's swearing-in.
The inauguration is considered a National Special Security Event, a federal designation that puts the Secret Service in charge of security for the entire day. But this year the special security tag has been extended to four days, starting when Obama starts making his way to Washington from Philadelphia on Amtrak this Saturday.
"It will be the most security, as far as I'm aware, that any inauguration's had," Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff said in a recent interview with The Associated Press.
Intelligence officials say there are no specific threats to the inauguration, although the high visibility of the event, the presence of dignitaries and the significance of swearing in the first black U.S. president make it a vulnerable target.
Bridges into Washington and about 3.5 square miles (9 square kilometers) of downtown will be closed Tuesday. The security perimeter covers more of the city than previous inaugurations. Thousands of extra police, military troops and law enforcement agents, including plain clothes officers roaming the crowds, will be on hand to handle the potentially 2 million people who could descend on the nation's capital.
People attending the ceremony and parade 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 meters away as well as undercover officers, bomb sniffing dogs and air patrols. And Washington's 5,265 surveillance cameras, spread around the city, are expected to be fed into a multi-agency command center. Including the Secret Service, 58 federal, state and local law enforcement agencies are providing security.
"We're nearing the event and all of the planning that we've been doing for all this time is starting to come together," said Secret Service Spokesman Malcolm Wiley.
Chertoff, whose department includes the Secret Service, will not leave his position until the day after Obama is sworn in as president, making him the only member of President Bush's Cabinet _ save Defense Secretary Robert Gates whom Obama asked to stay on _ to remain in his position after Bush leaves office. Even if his successor, Arizona Gov. Janet Napolitano, is confirmed by Tuesday, Chertoff will remain at the helm to oversee the inauguration, with plans to officially resign Wednesday morning.
Thousands of officers from 40 police jurisdictions will line the 137-mile (220-kilometer) route from Philadelphia to Washington on Saturday. Crowds are expected to gather at numerous spots, including overpasses, parking lots and commuter train stations, as Obama retraces the journey of Abraham Lincoln, who also rode to his inauguration on a train from Philadelphia. Lincoln was smuggled under cover of darkness from one train station to another to avoid a feared assassination attempt.
The Metropolitan Police Department's 4,100 officers and an additional 4,064 officers from police departments across the country will be on duty, said John Cohen, a senior adviser in the terrorism information sharing office of the Director of National Intelligence.
The large crowds predicted for the events raise logistical, security and public safety concerns.
"It only takes a minor event to create a stampede of people," said Wendell Shingler, former director of the Federal Protective Service, which provides security around government buildings. Shingler, who participated in the 2005 inauguration security plans and operations.
Shingler said horses calm crowds and help break up angry mobs. Law enforcement officials expect to have several mounted officers around the parade route.
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Associated Press Writer Nafeesa Syeed contributed to this report.


Updated : 2021-03-09 16:35 GMT+08:00