- The Washington Times - Tuesday, January 20, 2009

A peaceful transition of power came with unprecedented security Tuesday and not just on the Mall, but behind closed doors where federal law enforcement officials evaluated potential terrorist threats from radical Somalis as President Obama was sworn into office.

The FBI and Homeland Security Department warned in a bulletin to law enforcement officers across the country that members of al-Shabaab might be traveling to the U.S. to disrupt the inauguration and could get help from Somalians living in America.

“Authorities at all levels are vigorously pursuing any lead relating to this threat information,” said William Knocke, Homeland Security spokesman. “The transition team has been briefed and is fully integrated into the process.”

According to the bulletin, the possible attack could have coincided with the inauguration, but would not necessarily have taken place in Washington.

Al-Shabaab was designated as a terrorist organization by Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice on Feb. 29, 2008, and is described by the State Department as “a violent and brutal extremist group with a number of individuals affiliated with al-Qaida.”

“Many of its senior leaders are believed to have trained and fought with al-Qaida in Afghanistan,” the State Department said in its designation.

According to the bulletin, the information about the possible attack came from a source whose “credibility had not been established.” The national-threat level remained at “yellow” or elevated.

“The FBI, the Department of Homeland Security and the intelligence community are coordinating with other law enforcement authorities to investigate and analyze recently received information about a potential threat on Inauguration Day,” Mr. Knocke said.

“We encourage the public attending inauguration events to go about their normal plans. As always, we remind the public to be both thoughtful and vigilant about their surroundings, and to notify authorities of any suspicious activity. We also remind the public that they can expect very high levels of security at Inauguration events, and we ask for their patience and cooperation,” Mr. Knocke said.

Federal officials told The Washington Times that the crowd size was estimated at nearly 2 million.

U.S. Park Police Officer Denise Maradiaga reported no incidents or arrests on the Mall.

However, there were medical emergencies: 490 patients sought help at medical stations for falls, chest pains, dehydration and hypothermia, and 31 were taken to the hospital for further care, Officer Maradiaga said.

The unprecedented security effort included thousands of police officers and the military surrounding the Mall and also patroling by air and in the Potomac River. Nearly 10,000 National Guardsmen were called in to assist 8,000 Secret Service agents and sharpshooters.

“There is an unprecedented level of security involving more than 58 federal, state and local agencies for this inauguration and related events,” Mr. Knocke said. “As we have previously said, inauguration events could present an attractive target due to the large public gatherings and participation of many dignitaries. Authorities are constantly reviewing security measures in light of this threat information, as we would with any threat information.”

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