Security measures and crowd capacity are expected to be unprecedented as President-elect Barack Obama makes history of his own when he officially becomes the first African American commander-in-chief of the United States.
The number of security and law enforcement personnel varies, with reports ranging from 25,000 police, military troops, and agents from 58 federal, state, and local agencies — including plainclothes officers in crowds expected to reach more than 2 million for the swearing in ceremony — to 40,000 from 150 different agencies. Either way, security is tight to ensure the safety of all enjoying the festivities of Inauguration Day.
Authorities monitored an influx of intelligence leads today at the largest security operation in presidential inauguration history, according to reports. One such lead was a possible threat from an East Africa radical Islamic terrorist group.
Law enforcement and intelligence officials received knowledge that people associated with a Somalia-based group, al-Shabaab, had plans to disrupt the inauguration, according to a joint FBI/Homeland Security bulletin. The information had limited specificity and credibility was uncertain, said Homeland Security spokesman Russ Knocke.
Counter-terror officials have grown concerned in recent months about the threat posed by the militant al-Shabaab group and a cell of U.S.-based Somali sympathizers who have traveled to their homeland to “fight alongside Islamic insurgents,” the alert reported.
Crowds anticipate witnessing history
Helicopters hovered overhead this morning, according to reports, and long lines began to form as early as the crack of dawn today, stretching through the streets between the Capitol and Lincoln Memorial, heading toward the National Mall where large telescreens have been positioned throughout the area. Some people even camped out last night just to get a prime spot before today’s rush.
Braving 23-degree weather (which feels like 10 degrees, according to the Weather Channel), with what seems like nothing but jubilee and anticipation, scenes of crowds of hundreds of thousands who packed the Mall flooded morning news reports this morning.
About 240,000 people have tickets to watch the swearing-in from the Capitol’s west front, while hundreds of thousands more who don’t have tickets will watch from the Mall.