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Ridge outlines security efforts for Bush's inauguration ceremony

Color-coded national alert will not be raised for the inauguration.

When President Bush is sworn in for a second term Jan. 20, people attending the ceremony will encounter unprecedented security, Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge said Tuesday.

Anyone who attempts to disrupt the inauguration next week "will be repelled by multiple levels of security," Ridge said during a press conference on the National Mall. Security for the event is at its highest level, he said, and the department will "leave nothing to chance."

Homeland Security agencies such as the Secret Service, Transportation Security Administration, Coast Guard and Federal Emergency Management Agency will be involved in the effort, Ridge said. He touted the agencies' cooperation in organizing the event. They have been able to "integrate capacities and abilities at all levels" to be "as prepared as possible," he said.

Law enforcement agencies will be exchanging video feeds, connecting with one another through wireless communication devices and monitoring 24-hour surveillance cameras placed throughout the city, Ridge said. Mobile command vehicles will coordinate additional communication across multiple law enforcement agencies. Meanwhile, portable X-ray equipment will be deployed to several sites, and the Coast Guard will patrol the nearby Potomac River, he said.

The Secret Service, which has "led the design of the security planning," has swept all venues for signs of foul play and has led multiple, inter-agency training sessions, Ridge said.

There is "very little intelligence" pointing to specific plans to disrupt the inauguration, Ridge said, but just because the "decibel level is down" does not mean the department is less vigilant. The inauguration "is the most visible manifestation of our democracy," so it is natural to think enemies might want to stop it, he added, but there is currently "no specific threat."

The color-coded national alert will not be raised for the inauguration, he said. The code has been at yellow, representing an elevated or significant risk of terrorism, since mid-November, according to Homeland Security's Web site.

When asked for his thoughts on the District of Columbia's aggravation about having to use its own money designated for homeland security to cover inaugural security costs, Ridge said only that a "request has been made of my department [to use] money for security measures."

Ridge called on private citizens to report any unusual activity they might witness during the event. Their vigilance is the "added level of security" that will improve safety efforts on Inauguration Day, he said.

Meanwhile, Ridge praised Bush's selection of U.S. Appeals Court Judge Michael Chertoff to succeed Ridge as Homeland Security secretary. "I know him by reputation," Ridge said, praising the judge's "great intellect" and "great energy."

Chertoff is "well-equipped by experience and background" for the job, Ridge said.