U.S. authorities are imposing unprecedented security to protect the inauguration of President Bush on Jan. 20, the first such ceremony since the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.
More than 6,000 police and federal agents will be deployed. Seven thousand more U.S. military personnel will be on call at mobile command posts, ready to arrive from any direction, including across waterways on fast hovercraft.
Other security details released by federal officials Friday:
- Fighter jets will enforce a 30-mile no-fly zone for private planes in all directions.
- The U.S. Coast Guard will block traffic along 14 miles of the Potomac and Anacostia rivers.
- Cars will be banned for more than 100 city blocks.
All spectators at the swearing-in ceremony and along the parade route will be screened, just as they were four years ago, but this time the secure area will be expanded,
About 500,000 people are expected to line Pennsylvania Avenue. Washington, D.C., officials would not estimate the number of protesters expected but said they are prepared for protests.
U.S. Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge said Tuesday that although there was no specific threat to the ceremony itself, security would still be heightened in Washington during the swearing-in and the four days of celebrations opening Bush’s second term.
“The security will be at the highest levels that they’ve ever been for any inauguration. Our goal is that any attempt on the part of anyone or any group to disrupt the inaugural will be repelled by multiple levels of security,” he said.
Ridge, who is stepping down from his post, said there were no plans to raise the nation’s color-coded terror threat level, which was established after Bush declared a war against terrorism after the Sept. 11 attacks.
But Maj. Gen. Galen Jackman, a member of the Washington Area Task Force, says security personnel will be prepared for anything.
"We've worked just about every threat contingency that we could think of out there," he said. "We work through all of the what-ifs and how we could respond.”
City employees have the day off, and federal government agencies in the Washington metropolitan area will be closed on inauguration day. Officials have said the holiday is necessary to avoid gridlock with so many streets blocked off.
City officials have complained to the federal government that they are being required to use federal homeland security grants to pay costs associated with the inauguration.
Washington, D.C., Mayor Anthony Williams said the inauguration would cost the city about $17.3 million.