- The Washington Times - Sunday, January 18, 2009

The FBI says it is receiving more and more tips about suspicious activities and items as the inauguration approaches, though there have been no specific or credible threats.

“The closer you get to the event, the more threat streams come in,” agent John Perren said Saturday. “People become a little bit more aware and want to do the right thing and pick up the phone and call us and tell us.”

Mr. Perren is the special agent in charge for counterterrorism at the FBI’s Washington field office.

The FBI is one of 58 federal, state and local law enforcement agencies that are part of the largest inaugural security operation in history.

There was no credible intelligence as of Saturday that indicated terrorists plan to disrupt the events. But intelligence officials are concerned about attack scenarios, such as car bombs or other explosive devices.

Should such an incident occur over the next three days, the bureau is ready with emergency response equipment that stretches down a city block on Fifth Street Northwest - about halfway along the inaugural parade route between Capitol Hill and the White House.

There is a 40-foot bomb truck to handle suspicious items with a bomb-detecting robot that performs jobs considered too dangerous for a person. The FBI has a separate truck with a 12,000-pound blue steel ball that is strong enough to contain blasts of explosives.

There is also a mobile command center with seven laptops, 15 televisions, six cell phones, a microwave, a mini-fridge and a 12-cup coffee maker; an armored assault vehicle; and evidence response team trucks to process a crime scene.

The FBI will have as many as 1,000 employees helping to secure the inauguration, with 155 two-member intelligence teams dressed in plain clothes and strategically placed to look for specific threats.

“We’re very, very confident that if anything happens, we know how to respond to it,” Mr. Perren said.

He said that “rhetoric” directed toward President-elect Barack Obama, a Democrat, also has risen.

“The rhetoric is always out there,” he said. “Has the rhetoric risen? We are being told that it has.”

The Secret Service does not discuss threats against people under its protection. However, an intelligence assessment of the inauguration states that Mr. Obama “has been the focus of voluminous threat-related reporting since announcing his candidacy, and the number of threat reports has increased since his election.”

A Wisconsin man was arrested Friday in Mississippi after authorities said he threatened on the Internet to kill Mr. Obama.

Steven Joseph Christopher, 42, was arrested by the Secret Service in Brookhaven, Miss., and charged with threatening to assassinate Mr. Obama for what he claimed was “the country’s own good,” federal prosecutors said. Authorities said Mr. Christopher made the threats Jan. 11 and 15.

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