25,000 Deploy for Security at Inaugural

25,000 Deploy for Security at Inaugural

Most protected event ever includes 5,265 security cameras, snipers

NBC News and news services
updated 12:46 p.m. ET, Mon., Jan. 19, 2009

WASHINGTON – Security in downtown D.C. was high Monday after officials promised the largest inaugural security operation in history, with 58 federal, state and local agencies working together.

Some 25,000 police, military troops and law enforcement agents — including plainclothes officers roaming the crowds — will be on hand to handle the potentially 2 million people who could descend on the nation’s capital Tuesday.

The far-reaching security includes thousands of video cameras, sharpshooters and air patrols to safeguard President-elect Barack Obama’s swearing-in.

In addition, 155 intelligence teams will be mingling with the crowds and taking public transit to keep an eye on the situation. Snipers trained to hit a target the size of a teacup saucer from 1,000 yards away have also been deployed.

Along the Potomac River, the U.S. Coast Guard had patrol boats watching the waters and all river traffic was to be cut off Tuesday.

Some 150 city blocks will be closed to traffic on Tuesday, and while buses will be allowed into the city, private vehicles will not.

The Army National Guard 2nd Brigade of Washington, Penn., is securing the bus routes to and from the inauguration Tuesday morning. “It’s great to be part of it,” said Scott Bukovec of Johnstown, Penn., who has worked inaugurals before, but none like this. “This is a much greater scope.”

The security forces include bomb-sniffing dogs like Samson, a 125-pound black Labrador assigned to patrol the National Mall overnight. He’s even wearing a bullet-proof vest made from a decommissioned human flak jacket.

Command center, 5,265 cameras
A multi-agency command center, run by the Secret Service eight blocks from the White House, is receiving video feeds from the 5,265 surveillance cameras spread around the city.

The center has more than 100 officials monitoring inaugural activities and public areas via live video feeds from the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Metropolitan Police Department, National Park Service, District of Columbia Transportation Department, National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency and others.

Under the plan, if the Metropolitan Police Department needs to speak to someone at the Federal Aviation Administration, those officials are already in the same room. And each person there will have a list of radio frequencies so that one agency can easily communicate with another in the field.

The command center has five 8-foot-square monitors that can display anything from street maps to newscasts, situation reports and live camera feeds. There’s a so-called “burn bag” at every desk for disposal of classified information — and a list of nearby fast-food options.

On Sunday, snipers watched over the inaugural concert and officials responded to some suspicious packages around Washington, but all were eventually determined not to be dangerous.

“This is to be expected over the next few days, considering the security level surrounding the inauguration,” FBI spokesman Richard Kolko said.

There were also a few protesters Sunday, one group at 17th and Constitution, protesting gay rights, according to the FBI.

“It’s actually been a very quiet day,” Secret Service spokesman Malcolm Wiley said Sunday. The Secret Service is the lead agency for inauguration security operations.

No specific threats
Intelligence officials say there are no specific threats to the inauguration. But the high visibility of the event, the presence of dignitaries and the significance of swearing in the first African-American president make it a vulnerable target.

The security forces include 10,000 national guardsmen, 8,000 police, and 1,000 National Park police. Some 4,000 police are from 99 departments outside Washington, D.C.

Not only is the inauguration security the most intense ever, the inauguration will be the most heavily secured public event in U.S. history. And it’s expected to shatter the previous attendance record of 1.2 million for President Lyndon B. Johnson.

For the first time, the president declared an emergency in the District of Columbia in advance of the inauguration. That will cover 100 percent of eligible local inauguration costs for emergency protective measures on Tuesday. It is in addition to the $15 million Congress set aside for inauguration security costs.