January 16, 2009
An unprecedented security blanket has been draped over the US capital for Barack Obama’s inauguration next week, and the threat level to the country’s first black president is expected to remain high well beyond his swearing-in.
More than 12,500 active troops and military reservists, thousands of metropolitan police as well as personnel from 57 departments around the nation are descending on Washington to protect against any potential terrorist attack during Tuesday’s historic ceremony, according to officials.
With estimates of up to a record two million people attending, the Department of Homeland Security has designated Obama’s inauguration a national special security event.
“I think we all have to be concerned about a chemical, biological, radiological potential attack,” Major General Richard Rowe, head of the Armed Forces Inaugural Committee, said Wednesday.
To counter the threat, officials are putting in place what is likely to be the biggest and most advanced inaugural security operation ever.