How U.S. Secret Service Is Preparing For Potential Inauguration Day Violence
MARY LOUISE KELLY, HOST:
Will next week's inauguration be safe in light of the mob that stormed the U.S. Capitol last week? Joe Biden says he is not worried.
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JOE BIDEN: I am not concerned about my safety, security or the inauguration. I am not concerned.
KELLY: But set that against the warning the FBI just issued. The bureau says it has received information indicating armed protests are being planned at all 50 state capitols and at the U.S. Capitol, which, of course, is where Biden's inauguration will take place outside on the west steps.
So what needs to be done now to prevent more violence and to keep Biden and everyone else in attendance safe? Well, it is the U.S. Secret Service that's in charge of security for the inauguration. And so I want to turn to Mike White, who was head of the Secret Service's Presidential Protective Division and worked the last four inaugurations.
Mr. White, welcome.
MIKE WHITE: Thank you, Mary Louise.
KELLY: I want people listening to know your experience with this is not only firsthand, it's recent. Four years ago, after Donald Trump was sworn in and paraded towards the White House, you were just steps behind him. How confident are you that this inauguration will be safe?
WHITE: Mary Louise, I am extremely confident in the safety and security of this event.
KELLY: Even given events of last week?
WHITE: I don't mean to say that it's not going to be a difficult and a complex endeavor, but I know that the men and women have dedicated themselves and are very committed to making sure that these events that take place surrounding the inauguration will be safe and secure.
KELLY: Well, let me invite you to get specific. What kind of things would be on the table in terms of making sure that next week goes considerably smoother than last week? Are you talking different barriers, different perimeters, just more feet on the ground, more security officers?
WHITE: All of the above - you're going to see an increased presence of law enforcement officials. You're going to see round-the-clock real-time analysis of every intelligence stream that they can get their hands on, increased covert surveillance that takes place, social media platforms that are monitored much more closely for intel through those open-source dialogues. You're going to see the perimeter set up. I know - I was very involved in the '09 inauguration for President Obama, and things like bridges into the city were closed. I would imagine those types of plans are being looked at and considered.
KELLY: May I ask, as you watched events unfold last Wednesday at the Capitol - understanding I'm sure you don't want to put blame on anyone in Capitol Police or anybody else. But what struck you as, hmm, that could have been better; that's not the way this needs to look at the inauguration?
WHITE: You're right, Mary Louise. I'm not here to Monday morning quarterback anything. I think the Capitol Police officers that were on scene that day did the best they could with the resources they had - or at least that's what I hope. I think people got caught flat-footed in preparing. I think there was adequate intelligence that something like this could occur. And I don't believe that proper attention was paid to that to set up perimeters that should have been pushed out several blocks away from the Capitol to keep people from getting that close and overwhelming that Capitol Police law enforcement agency.
KELLY: What's the biggest question on your mind as you look ahead to next week?
WHITE: I will say in the last inauguration, I was walking steps behind the president on that day. And at that point in time, I was very concerned about something that may come at us from the air, a drone or an aircraft or something like that. And we had rehearsed, and we had plans, and we knew how we could get ourselves out of that situation. I think for that agent in charge that will be steps behind this president, I think it's going to be a different type of threat that they're more concerned with. And I would imagine that's going to have to do with these protesters in some way impacting checkpoints or overrunning a security perimeter to work their way in closer to a protected venue - so need to be prepared for that as well. And they will be prepared.
KELLY: That is Mike White, former head of the Secret Service's Presidential Protective Division, currently senior vice president for private security for Jensen Hughes.
Mr. White, thank you.
WHITE: Thank you, Mary Louise. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.