Secretary of Homeland Security Tom Ridge conducts an inspection of security preparations for the presidential inauguration on Jan. 20 and gives one of them a secretarial pat.
MANUEL BALCE CENETA / AP Enlarge
WASHINGTON - President Bush's second swearing-in, the nation's 55th inauguration, will be marked by unprecedented security that will "leave nothing to chance," Tom Ridge, outgoing secretary of the Department of Homeland Security, pledged yesterday.
Security will be the most expensive in U.S. history, a sore point with city officials. Mayor Anthony Williams did not show up as expected at Mr. Ridge's press conference yesterday.
Mr. Williams is upset the city has to use $11.4 million earmarked for homeland security projects to pay for police overtime for the inaugural events next week, part of the projected cost to the city of $17 million.
In addition, the inaugural festivities are expected to cost in excess of $40 million, to be paid by private donations.
Mr. Ridge was circumspect about details of the security. But 6,000 law enforcement personnel will be patrolling in the air, on the water, and on the ground Jan. 20 for the morning swearing-in on Capitol Hill, the 2 p.m. parade down Pennsylvania Avenue, and the nine inaugural balls that evening.
Manhole covers will be cemented shut, newspaper racks and trash bins will be removed, and canine units will patrol the downtown. The no-fly zone around the White House and the Washington Monument will be extended 16 miles, except for scheduled commercial flights. Some Metro stations and many streets will be closed all day.
Mr. Ridge said there has been no intelligence that an attack on the inaugural festivities is planned. But he added, "Security will be at highest levels they've ever been at any event. We will leave nothing to chance. The fact the decibel level [from so-called terrorist chatter] is down doesn't really mean we'd ever be less vigilant. They are strategic actors. This is the most visible manifestation of our democracy."
Not only will Mr. Bush and Vice President Cheney be at the Capitol for the outside ceremony, but so will members of Congress, the Cabinet, the Supreme Court, diplomats, and prominent officials from around the country.
Mr. Ridge said that the inaugural is a "very, very important symbol of democracy" and that the government is determined to make it safe as well as meaningful. He said there will be portable X-ray equipment to examine packages, commercial vehicles, and delivery trucks. Trained homeland security personnel will help the police, he said.