NEWS

Despite Terrorism Threat, Inauguration Safe and Sound

By Matthew Harwood

Despite unspecified threats from an East African terrorist organization released Monday night by homeland security officials, yesterday's inauguration of President Barack Obama at the Capitol came and went without serious incident.

Security around Washington, D.C., was maintained by the cooperation and coordination of 58 federal, state, and local law enforcement agencies. It was the biggest security event in the history of all U.S. inaugurations.

CNN.com outlined the security posture for the day:

"... tens of thousands of police officers, federal agents and National Guardsmen were deployed on land, water and in the air in an unprecedented effort to make sure the inauguration was secure.

The security effort involved Secret Service agents; 8,000 police officers from the District of Columbia and other jurisdictions; 10,000 National Guardsmen; about 1,000 FBI personnel; and hundreds of others from the Department of Homeland Security, the National Park Service and U.S. Capitol Police. Another 20,000 members of the National Guard were ready to respond if there was an emergency, said Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff."

"I've never seen so much security in my life," John Antone, 53, of Sacaton, Arizona, told USA Today.

An estimated 1.8 to 2 million people crowded into the National Mall to watch the swearing-in of President Obama, reports CBS News. If correct, Obama's inaugural attendance destroyed the previous inaugural attendance record set in 1965 at the inauguration of President Lyndon B. Johnson.

But regardless of the immense crowds, slow security screening, and cold weather, there were no inaugural-related arrests, according to multiple media reports. During former President George W. Bush's second inauguration, 8 people were arrested, mainly protesters, reports the Associated Press.

Secret Service Director Mark Sullivan said the gathering was composed of "cooperative, patient, and orderly citizens."

On Monday night, however, a specter did rise around the next day's activities as the Department of Homeland Security and the FBI jointly released a bulletin warning that a Somalia-based terrorist organization, al-Shabaab, linked to al Qaeda may have sent members to America to ostensibly attack the inaugural celebrations. The bulletin, however, did not specify what attack method the organization would use or whether the District was even a target, reports USA Today. The organization was designated as a terrorist organization by Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice in February 2008.

Calling the threat of “limited specificity and uncertain credibility,” the terrorism-threat level remained at yellow—or "elevated: significant risk of terrorist attacks."

In another incident, a 25-mile stretch of the New Jersey Turnpike was closed yesterday after a mother phoned law enforcement to report her son was traveling down to the inauguration with a bomb, reported CNN.com. New Jersey State Police stopped and questioned the man before determining he presented no risk.

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