- The Washington Times - Sunday, January 18, 2009

The estimated crowd of more than 1 million for the inauguration in the District will also bring thousands of law-enforcement officers and military personnel from across the country in an unprecedented security effort.

“It’s clear that this is a historic event, and we understand the kinds of crowds that have come out to see President-elect Obama on the campaign trail,” said agent Malcolm Wiley, a U.S. Secret Service spokesman. “We believe this crowd may be larger than we’ve seen during past inaugurations.”

The effort is being coordinated by the Secret Service and likely will resemble the days following Sept. 11, with snipers manning rooftops and members of the Coast Guard and Air Force providing support from the water and air.

As Inauguration Day begins just after midnight Tuesday, bridges leading from Virginia to the District will be blocked to most vehicles, with access coming largely from designated roadways in Maryland. Extensive road closures also will limit parking and travel in the city.

The nation’s capital will become, in effect, a law-locked island, with limited access to, from and above the city. Nevertheless, Mr. Wiley said the security plan still provides an exit in case the unthinkable were to happen.

“If there were something to happen, we’ve got bridges that are closed to vehicles that people can walk out on,” he said. “It gives people an egress out of the city.”

The National Guard will provide 1,300 unarmed soldiers to assist the U.S. Park Police in securing the National Mall during Mr. Obama’s swearing-in ceremony Jan. 20.

Estimates have varied on how many people will pack the Mall to witness the historic event, but officials have said between 1 million and 4 million are expected.

Instead of setting up bag checks similar to those seen on July 4, Park Police Chief Sal Lauro said officials are relying on “multiple rings of security.” Law enforcement will be monitoring Metro and bus locations in the suburbs, while there will be “a large presence” of police and military around the Mall, including undercover officers and officers on horseback.

The Park Police also are bringing in 600 officers from surrounding jurisdictions and will be using cameras and manned towers to bolster the security effort.

“We think with the large visible presence monitoring the crowds as they come and monitoring the crowds as they’re on the Mall, we can be very effective in securing it,” Chief Lauro said.

Fifty-seven federal and local agencies will join the Secret Service security effort.

Among those, the Metropolitan Police Department will have 4,000 officers of its own and 4,000 officers from nearly 100 other jurisdictions helping to secure inaugural festivities, which include the swearing-in ceremony, Inaugural Parade and 10 official inaugural balls.

D.C. Mayor Adrian M. Fenty, a Democrat, was so concerned about providing adequate security with the $15 million federal appropriation that he asked President Bush, a Republican, to declare the city an emergency area. Mr. Bush granted the request last week, which will give the District access to more federal money and reimbursements in addition to getting help from the Homeland Security Department and the Federal Emergency Management Agency. Mr. Fenty thinks the security effort will cost the city as much as $75 million.

About 7,500 members of the military will serve in either ceremonial or security capacities, officials said, plus additional National Guard troops.

Metro Transit Police will receive at least 132 officers from about a dozen transit agencies to augment their roughly 450-member force Tuesday, Metro spokesman Steven Taubenkibel said. Agencies in cities such as Boston, Dallas and New York are offering their assistance.

The FBI also is taking a large role, deploying 115 intelligence teams throughout the area and making arrangements in case a disaster occurs.

Joseph Persichini Jr. - assistant director of the FBI’s Washington field office - said the department also is continually updating what threats Mr. Obama might face during inauguration activities. He said last week there was no “specific viable threat to the president.”

“It’s what you don’t know that’s the concern,” Mr. Persichini said. “If you asked me what I consider to be the biggest concern, that would be a home-grown lone wolf, [an] individual who wants to take action independently, on their own.”

The first of the security restrictions will take effect Jan. 19 in the District, when police will create a security perimeter around a 3.5-square-mile area that includes Capitol Hill, the Mall, the White House and the Pennsylvania Avenue Northwest parade route.

Police will establish a wider security perimeter running from K Street Northwest to the Potomac River in which parking will be prohibited and driving will be restricted to residents and vehicles on official business.

Pedestrians approaching the Pennsylvania Avenue parade route will have to pass through one of 13 police checkpoints. Bicycles will be prohibited within the security zones.

D.C. police would not disclose specific deployment plans for officers. However, spokeswoman Traci Hughes said the department is well-prepared for the inauguration, even with a recent extension of bar hours by the D.C. Council that will make last call 4 a.m. from Saturday to Wednesday.

Miss Hughes said the only agency that had publicly acknowledged they will be assisting D.C. police is the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department, although officers from elsewhere are coming. Invites were not extended to the New York City and Los Angeles police departments.

“We’re going by the last inauguration - the participation of outside agencies - and neither of those agencies participated in the last inauguration,” Miss Hughes said.

The District also will be using its police surveillance-camera network.

National Park Service spokesman Bill Line said his agency has granted less than 10 permits for groups planning to gather on Inauguration Day.

“This is typical of about four years ago, within roughly the same number,” he said.

Among those, the ANSWER Coalition has received a permit for a gathering expected to draw 1,100 people in Freedom Plaza on the Jan. 20 inauguration, and a group from the Westboro Baptist Church in Kansas - known for their anti-gay protests and picketing at military funerals - will meet at the corner of John Marshall Memorial Park, near the Canadian Embassy.

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