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Unprecedented Security in Place for Inauguration


President Bush will be sworn in this week under the tightest security in U.S. inaugural history.  Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge says there is no specific terrorist threat facing the January 20th inauguration.  But he says nothing will be left to chance to protect what he called the most "visible manifestation of U.S. democracy." 

Security for President Bush's second inauguration will be unprecedented, with some 6,000 law enforcement personnel from more than 50 federal, state and local agencies.   Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge says security precautions for the event have been in the works for more than a year. "The local, state, and federal government is as prepared as possible to thwart any attempts or disruption of this celebration of democracy."

Law enforcement agencies will be linked by a state-of-the-art communication system.  Sensors will scan the air for traces of chemical or biological agents, while jets will monitor the proceedings.  Sharpshooters will be stationed throughout the parade site near the Capitol and along Pennsylvania Avenue. Dozens of police dogs will sniff for explosives, while portable x-ray machines will scan bags and vehicles.

Michael O'Hanlon is with the research group the Brookings Institution. "I think we are in a position to be able to stop large-scale coordinated attacks, but I'm not sure we can stop smaller and perhaps simultaneous loosely coordinated attacks so I think we still have that kind of worry for inauguration day.

"Mr. Ridge says stopping a terrorist act will require everybody's participation. "If you see any suspicious items or activities, we just ask you to go up to one of those local law enforcement personnel and report it."

The inauguration is expected to draw hundreds of thousands of spectators. 

And like every inauguration there will be protesters. Some recently held a press conference at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C., where they expressed concern that they will not be able to demonstrate along the parade route, because of intense security and a lack of access.

Government officials say protesters are welcome, but they will not compromise the security of such a visible and important event.