WASHINGTON (AP) — This year'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 President-elect Barack 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 president make it a vulnerable target.
Bridges into Washington and about 3.5 square miles 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 yards 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.