How Vulnerable Is the Presidential Inauguration to an Attack?

This is a rush transcript from "America's News HQ," January 8, 2009. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

JON SCOTT, HOST: So, no specific intelligence pointing to terrorist plots during the inauguration, but officials say it still could be vulnerable to some other type of attack.

Mike Baker joins us now. He's a former CIA covert operations officer, now, the president and cofounder of the global intelligence and risk management firm, Diligence.

What about that? I mean, Lee Harvey Oswald, essentially, was the classic lone wolf, right, and he pulled it off.

MIKE BAKER, FMR. COVERT OPERATIONS OFFICER: From an intelligence perspective, it's very tough to catch the individual. You have to rely to capture those persons to stop that sort of attack. You have to rely on your physical security that you put in place.

Video: Watch Jon Scott's interview

It's the groups — whether it's racist, hate group of some sort — that Secretary Chertoff alluded to or al Qaeda or some other terrorist organization from overseas, your intelligence plays a much more critical role in this, because they've started way back leading up to this inauguration, and working on the local, state and federal level, coordinating and sifting through its incredible — how much information — but sifting through countless bits of intel, communications intercepts, piece of information from various sources here in the States and around the globe, to try to find any link or any indication that there is something specific related to this inauguration.

SCOTT: And as Catherine said, shutting down some of the streets right around the inaugural area, a full day ahead of time, gives them plenty of time to sweep everything and make sure that there aren't, you know, people with weapons, et cetera hiding in the bushes.

BAKER: It's an incredibly complex, as you can imagine, it's incredibly complex effort. And so much of this takes place off the radar screen. It's what the people don't see. Obviously, the public goes in there and they see the barriers; they see the inconvenience of metal detectors; they see the closed-off streets.

What they don't see is everything that takes place behind the scenes including the intel collection, but all the resources that are deployed to try to prevent what, essentially, is planning for everything — from the individual attack to the most so sophisticated al Qaeda-type effort.

SCOTT: Talking about intelligence collection, the New York City Police Department has been to Mumbai already, taking a look at the terror attacks there and already come up with some pretty, I think, interesting possibilities. Judith Miller writes about it for us on She is the investigative reporter.

One of the possibilities is developing the ability to shut down cell phones, because those thugs who pulled off that attack over the course of three days were talking to each other on cell phones the whole time.

BAKER: Right. The Indian authorities have been able to intercept a lot of cell phone communications once the event took place, once they started the attack. They found out that through this cell phone intercepts that there was communication going on and that's one of the early indications, obviously, that had a Pakistani link.

Now, the Indians, you know, kind of launched off and said it was the Pakistani government. Well, it was Lashkar-e-Taiba, which was a terrorist group essentially, that's been involved in all sorts of incidents against the Indians. But they were able to intercept the cell phone communications.

A heartening part of this is how quickly, not just the New York Police, but the federal authorities as well, have been involved in analyzing the Mumbai event and saying, "What are the lessons we can learn from that?" And the New York City Police are saying, "OK, if there is an event, we need the same ability. We need to know that there could be coordination going on. We have to identify those communications, we have to be able to intercept them, potentially have to shut them down."

SCOTT: Mike Baker, former CIA officer, now with Diligence. Mike, thank you.

BAKER: Sure. Thank you.

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