The Department of Homeland Security implemented a security lockdown in downtown Washington, D.C., nearly a week ahead of schedule after the deadly siege at the Capitol Ja. 6 and threats of more violence leading up to Inauguration Day on Jan. 20 and the swearing-in of President-elect Joe Biden.
Acting on requests from Congress and city officials, DHS acting Secretary Pete Gaynor expedited the rollout of a massive inaugural security plan Wednesday.
“In light of these requests, recent events at the U.S. Capitol … and planned events in Washington, D.C., prior to the inauguration, I have determined that extending the (enhanced security period) to begin on Jan. 13 is necessary to provide a unified command and control and ensure the safety and security of this special event,” Gaynor wrote in a memo to department officials.
The early designation kicked off a sprawling operation that has already draped the city in fencing and barricades.
Unsuspecting commuters encountered multiple vehicle checkpoints at major entrances to the city early Wednesday, clogging traffic, while some streets were completely closed as officials pushed to implement a plan that will involve tens of thousands of law enforcement officers and National Guard troops.
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Gaynor’s action was his first as the acting secretary since assuming command of the department after Monday’s abrupt resignation of acting Secretary Chad Wolf. Concern for the security mission was raised by Wolf’s resignation as the inauguration loomed.
DHS oversees the Secret Service, which is leading preparations for the designated National Special Security Event. Earlier this week, the Secret Service expressed confidence in the plan, describing it as a “zero fail mission.”
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Michael Plati, the agent leading the effort, vowed a “robust … presence” of law enforcement and National Guard, along with a layered network of fencing and vehicle checkpoints to repel potential threats.
Plati described last week’s security collapse as a “poignant reminder” of the consequences for any breakdown.
“We have a zero-fail mission,” he said. “We feel we are prepared to address the challenges presented by that day.”
Though Plati did not address specific threats posed to the inauguration, the FBI warned authorities of the possibility of armed demonstrations on Inauguration Day in Washington and in state capitals in the run-up to the swearing-in of the new president.
A suburban Chicago man, Louis Capriotti, was arrested Tuesday on a federal criminal charge on suspicion of threatening violence at the inauguration.