With the swearing-in ceremony a little over 48 hours away, planning is moving along at full-tilt, including arranging the security measures required to keep the President and First Lady safe throughout. The Secret Service takes point in designing and implementing security plans during what are called National Security Special Events, gatherings of the size of the Inaugural that would be prove likely targets for terrorism. Partnering with local law enforcement and the military, the result is an estimated 20,000 law enforcement officials prepared to patrol the District of Columbia.
In conjunction with that effort, the FBI is prepared to handle crisis management should an incident incur, along with providing intelligence analysis ahead of the event. It’s in that role that Jacqueline McGwyer, an agent at the Washington Field Office of the FBI, confirmed to ThinkProgress that there is currently “no credible or corroborated threat” towards the President ahead of the Inaugural. In addition, according to McGwyer, there’s less chatter that would suggest a potential attack compared to the same period in 2009.
The decrease in overall noise tracks with what independent observers are seeing as well. What worries J.M. Berger more is the severity of what he’s seeing from the far right. Berger tracks terrorism in the form of both jihadi extremists and white supremacists through their Internet presence on his website Intelwire. According to Berger, “There are certain phrases that you see, that are always in the mix, but are more prominent now.” He described these phrases as calls to action, such as “The time is now,” that ebb and flow in their usage, but have peaked in the last few days.
Compounding the chatter surrounding the inauguration are the President’s recent proposals to reduce gun violence. Volume among the fringe right is as high today as it was immediately after the tragedy in Newtown, CT, Berger said. The real concern, he said, is that protesters will flow into the city in the hopes of setting off a confrontation with law enforcement. Berger described the feeling among the far right-wing internet communities as akin to a “powder-keg poised to go off.” Should the weekend pass without seeing that influx though, Berger predicted that the communities he monitors will calm down until the passage of any firearms legislation in Congress.
The possibility is still out there that a new threat may arise to the President along the same vein as the possible threat that arose during the last Inaugural. In 2009, law enforcement officials were reported to be tracking down leads of a potential threat from the Somalia-based jihadi group al-Shabaab. While that threat was never corroborated and clearly never came to pass, the intelligence community remains high alert.
At least one event scheduled for this weekend shows the potential for getting the far right further riled. Media Matters for America reported on Friday that the “Gun Appreciation Day” event due to take place on Saturday in protest of Obama’s gun proposals is being sponsored in part by a white nationalist group called American Third Position. Groups like American Third Position were the subject of a recent study by the Combating Terrorism Center highlighting the threat that fringe right-wing groups pose to the United States.