The Homeland Security Department designated President Bush's inauguration a national security special event (search), which makes the ceremony's high-profile gatherings eligible for federal money and heightened security overseen by the Secret Service.

The department said Monday the Secret Service (search) would handle protection for the Jan. 20 swearing-in at the Capitol, the inaugural parade along Pennsylvania Ave. and the inaugural balls.

Since April, Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge has said the Al Qaeda (search) network has an interest in disrupting U.S. democracy. He said the threat could extend to the inauguration and beyond.

Under a 1998 directive signed by President Clinton, events merit the special security designation when they are considered to be of significant national importance. Federal counterterror resources, led by Secret Service, are provided to protect such gatherings.

At the inauguration, Secret Service will develop a security plan with law enforcement agencies, including Washington's Metropolitan Police Department and the U.S. Capitol Police.

Since 1998, the Secret Service has overseen 20 special security events, including the 2004 Republican and Democratic National Conventions, the 2000 Presidential Inauguration (search), and the 2002 Super Bowl in New Orleans.