WASHINGTON, Jan. 18 (UPI) -- U.S. Homeland Security officials say they have no evidence of terrorist plans to disrupt Thursday's inauguration of President George Bush in Washington.
The lowering of the threat level is in contrast to last April, when Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge announced al-Qaida terrorists might strike during this week's festivities based on reports there were potential threats to the November election.
Now, Ridge and other officials told the Washington Post they have little choice but to err on the side of caution by sealing off a broad swath of the capital Thursday. An estimated 100 square blocks of downtown will be off-limits to the public during inaugural festivities, and about 7,000 troops will be deployed.
"It stands to reason if you're involved in law enforcement or security, that if you have one big event, at one spot, one platform where leaders from around the world are gathered at the same moment, it becomes an obvious target," said William Pickle, a former Secret Service official who is now Senate sergeant-at-arms.