Editor’s note: The "Innovation Exchange," a regular feature in Local Tech Wire, is written by Noah Garrett, former director of communications for the North Carolina Technology Association, is a creative spirit, from writing music to news stories, who owns and operates NGC Communications. The focus of the Innovation Exchange is just that creating a Web community through which people can exchange ideas and foster creativity.
CHARLESTON, S.C. – The weather forecast will be frigid cold for Tuesday’s 56th Inauguration in our nation’s capital, but what will be hot is some of the technology being used to protect the president-elect during this historic event.
This will be the most heavily-guarded presidential inauguration in history.
Federal, state and local agencies plan to use the latest technology to monitor action in the sky and on the ground. It is one of many signs that Barack Obama’s inauguration will take security in Washington to a new level using expertise, equipment, and just about every piece of technology that exists today.
The U.S. Secret Service is the lead agency for inauguration security and for obvious reasons would not comment on specific pieces of technology. However, Malcolm Wiley, spokesman for the Secret Service, conceded that they have an array of resources today that were not available four years ago.
"We are an agency that changes with the times," said Wiley. "I’m unable to provide specifics on technology, but rest assured we use a lot of means and methods in preparing for an event like this we look at this more from a cooperative standpoint than a technology standpoint."
The U.S. Department of Homeland Security has designated the inaugural as a National Special Security Event (NSSE). Wiley’s reference to cooperation explains the sheer amount of personnel involved to secure an event of this magnitude.
When an event is designated an NSSE, the Secret Service assumes its role as the lead federal agency for the design and implementation of the operational security plan that includes 58 additional law enforcement agencies all playing a critical operational role in maintaining the necessary level of security.
At this point, the Secret Service does not have an estimate on how many people are expected for the inauguration. Some reports indicate as many as four million people could be there, but that has not been corroborated by law enforcement officials.
The National Park Service notes the largest crowd ever on the National Mall was for President Lyndon B. Johnson’s 1965 inauguration an estimated 1.2 million people attended the event.
Inaugural activities will take place beginning Saturday through Wednesday, with the swearing-in ceremony scheduled for Tuesday.
On Inauguration Day, computers will integrate information from cameras, sensors, and traffic and police reports, allowing officials throughout the region to monitor traffic flow in real time. In particular, 3-D modeling, complete with weather effects, will provide an even more detailed picture, according to sources. And, the Secret Service reportedly can engage mobile phone jammers as needed to ensure presidential security, so people who suddenly find their phones not working along the presidential motorcade route may need to be patient.
An intelligence assessment obtained by The Associated Press said the high visibility of the event, the presence of dignitaries and the significance of swearing in the country’s first black president make the inauguration vulnerable to attacks.
According to the AP, more than a dozen counter-sniper teams will be deployed at the most vulnerable points along the parade route. Helicopters will hover overhead and other aircraft will be kept away. High-resolution surveillance cameras will scan the crowds. Even a $350,000 loudspeaker system using sonar technology was installed in case instructions need to be given in the event of an emergency.
And, shortly after taking the oath of office, Obama will climb into a new presidential limo that appears to be part car, part truck and part tank.
In keeping with tradition, the Secret Service will place a brand-new presidential limousine into service to drive the new president on the 2-mile jaunt down Pennsylvania Avenue during the inaugural parade. For car nerds, the new ride is a Cadillac built to precise specifications and undergoes extreme testing and development to provide its occupants the highest level of protection.
"Although many of the vehicles’ security enhancements cannot be discussed, it is safe to say that this car’s security and coded communications systems make it the most technologically advanced protection vehicle in the world," said Nicholas Trotta, assistant director for the Office of Protective Operations with the Secret Service.
President George W. Bush this week declared an emergency in the District of Columbia that will let the nation’s capital tap deeper into federal coffers for Obama’s inauguration. Bush said that an emergency exists and ordered federal aid to supplement the $15 million in federal funds already appropriated for the event.
Obama will take the oath of office, using President Abraham Lincoln’s inaugural Bible, administered by John G. Roberts Jr., chief justice of the United States.