Tips to FBI about suspicious activity on the rise

Jan 17, 2:08 PM (ET)

By EILEEN SULLIVAN




WASHINGTON (AP) - The FBI said Saturday it is receiving more and more tips about suspicious activities and items as the inauguration approaches, though there have been no specific or credible threats.

"The closer you get to the event, the more threat streams come in. People become a little bit more aware and want to do the right thing and pick up the phone and call us and tell us," said John Perren, the special agent in charge for counterterrorism at the FBI's Washington field office.

"Agencies want to forward us everything they have, just to ensure that this inauguration will be the safest inauguration there has ever been," Perren said.

The FBI is one of 58 federal, state and local law enforcement agencies that are part of the largest inaugural security operation in history.

There is no credible intelligence, at this point, that indicates terrorists plan to disrupt the events. But intelligence officials are concerned about potential attack scenarios, such as a car bomb or other explosive devices.

Should such an incident occur over the next three days, the bureau is ready with emergency response equipment that stretches down a city block on 5th Street.

There is a 40-foot bomb truck to handle suspicious items with a bomb-detecting robot that performs jobs considered too dangerous for a person. The FBI has a separate truck with a 12,000-pound blue steel ball that is strong enough to contain blasts of explosives.

There is also a mobile command center with seven laptops, 15 televisions, six cell phones, a microwave, mini fridge and 12-cup coffee maker; an armored assault vehicle; and evidence response team trucks to process a crime scene.

The FBI will have as many as 1,000 employees helping to secure the inauguration, with 155 two-person intelligence teams dressed in plain clothes and strategically placed to look for specific threats.

"We're very, very confident that if anything happens, we know how to respond to it," Perren said.

Perren said that "rhetoric" directed toward President-elect Barack Obama has also risen.

"The rhetoric is always out there," Perren said. "Has the rhetoric risen? We are being told that it has. But again, that's something we don't want to get in to."

The Secret Service does not discuss threats against people under its protection. An intelligence assessment of the inauguration, however, states that Obama "has been the focus of voluminous threat-related reporting since announcing his candidacy, and the number of threat reports has increased since his election."