This is a partial transcript from "On the Record," January 19, 2005, that has been edited for clarity.
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GRETA VAN SUSTEREN, HOST: Back in Washington, rooftop snipers, missile batteries and bomb-sniffing dogs are already in place for Thursday's inauguration (search).
Joining us from Fort Lauderdale is National Security reporter Bill Gertz of the Washington Times. Bill, you escaped our snow and you escaped our security for Florida. But leaving behind you do, you study this all the time, you report on this, how intense is the security in this city?
BILL GERTZ, WASHINGTON TIMES: It's quite amazing the level of security. There are thousands of security personnel around even surface-to-air missiles to deal with possible aircraft or helicopter threats, lots of electronic equipment, lots of people on the street.
It's the most intense security that's been done for any inauguration and the reason is quite simple. There's going to be 80,000 guests alone plus several hundred thousand people who are just there to watch it.
VAN SUSTEREN: You know, Bill, we had a lot of security in New York for the Republican Convention, 9/11 of course being the reason why everything has been stepped up but is there any specific threat or is this simply being prudent because we recognize 9/11 and that this president has gone to war in Afghanistan and Iraq?
GERTZ: Well, Greta, the Department of Homeland Security and the FBI and NORTHCOM, the Northern Command, the military command, put out an intelligence assessment about a week ago and it said there's no credible information about any terrorist attack plans for the inauguration.
That said, everyone knows Al Qaeda (search) is planning to attack the United States and they look at the inauguration as a high profile event that a terrorist group could capitalize on by conducting even a small to a large-scale attack. Al Qaeda's trademark, however, is large-scale simultaneous attacks.
VAN SUSTEREN: And, of course, we're also going to be the site of at least one polling for the Iraqi election on January 30th, which is another reason why Washington is a hot target.
Bill, we're reading in the papers here there may be a little bit of a showdown between the District of Columbia and the feds over the cost of the security. Who's going to win this showdown because apparently it's going to cost over $17 million to the D.C. taxpayers?
GERTZ: Well, you know, there is always fights over budgets in D.C. and the federal government usually ends up ponying up quite a bit of money and I'm sure that they're going to do that for this inaugural event, the security being as large as any we've ever seen.
VAN SUSTEREN: Who is in charge of the security for tomorrow's events?
GERTZ: Well, the way it works is that the Secret Service, which is responsible for protecting the president, is overall in charge of security. The FBI is handling the criminal investigations and that type of thing and the Department of Homeland Security would be responsible for dealing with a particular incident, say if there was some kind of a bomb plot or some type of radiological attack. That's the DHS would take over on that.
VAN SUSTEREN: And in terms of how much is blocked off I'm sure, I mean I know you just left Washington recently but much of the city is blocked off to traffic, isn't it?
GERTZ: Yes and they've expanded the blocked off areas because one of the big threats is vehicle bombs. That is an known proven tactic of Al Qaeda. It's easy to conceal explosives.
We've all heard the stories about limousines. They said that Al Qaeda has explored the use of limousines because they can travel freely during this kind of an event, so those are the kinds of things that they're on the lookout and they're going to expand the area where they're going to limit the areas where people can park or drive.
VAN SUSTEREN: What about the exercise of the First Amendment right? We expect some protesters exercising the First Amendment right. What provisions are being made to accommodate their constitutional rights?
GERTZ: Well, you know, D.C.'s record on that has been pretty Draconian. You know we know from the anti-globalization protest they were very quick to crack down on any kind of demonstrations that they felt posed a threat to public security.
I imagine that that's going to be the case this time. You know if people are just expressing their views and voicing their opinions, I don't think that's a problem but if there's anything that could possibly impede the events of the inauguration, I'm sure that they'll be very quick to crack down on it.
VAN SUSTEREN: And, of course, in order to see the parade you've got to get a ticket. I mean that parade route is pretty well cordoned off too.
GERTZ: Right and, of course, the weather is a big issue too. You know one of the big problems here is you can't move quickly in this kind of weather, especially if there's snow on the ground.
Cold weather also affords a potential terrorist the opportunity to conceal things and one of the things that could be used in some kind of an attack would be an improvised mortar attack, which could be concealed.
VAN SUSTEREN: And with that I got to go. And the idea of you talking about weather from Fort Lauderdale as we're under snow, I'll talk to you about that later, Bill.
GERTZ: OK, Greta, thank you.
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