Groups stress security risks of
inauguration train trip
Published: January 5th 2008
Printer friendly version
WASHINGTON, D.C. — A letter sent to the Secret Service on behalf of
environment activist organizations Greenpeace and Friends of the Earth
warns that President-elect Barack Obama's train trip to Washington, D.C.
before the Jan. 20 inauguration is a far riskier mode of transport than
his typical travels by plane, automobile or helicopter.
The letter states that the whistle-stop tour is vulnerable to attack due
to the threat of hazardous chemicals and cargo along the east coast rail
corridor. It also states that even if the President-elect is protected,
lots of other folks would be in harm's way if there were an attack on a
chemical facility along the route.
"This means that during a period of some days of heightened
vulnerability to terrorism, Mr. Obama and Mr. Biden on this day will be
highly visible and relatively approachable together on the
difficult-to-protect Eastern Urban rail corridor," the letter states.
"Some of the more dangerous chemical facilities in the country are also
in that corridor," Fred Millar, a Friends of the Earth consultant, told
ABC News on Monday. Millar and his colleagues have been pushing hard
since 9-11 to reroute hazardous cargo away from city centers.
For better security before and during Obama's inauguration, the groups
are making suggestions such as shutting down the most dangerous
high-pressure chemical operations and reducing on-site chemical storage.
"We will be urging Mr. Obama and Mr. Biden to re-consider their January
17 2009 plans, and to go ahead only with Inauguration-related activities
in Washington DC which are demonstrably at a safe distance from
potential massive industrial chemical threats," the letter said.
Today Linda Douglass, chief spokesperson for the Presidential Inaugural
Committee, said they do not discuss security matters but added that they
are confident in their federal security officials who are advising them
- US Secret Service and the Department of Homeland Security. The Secret
Service, meantime, is making extensive preparations for security
surrounding Jan. 20.
Still, Millar argued that unlike the rail journey, other modes of
transport are safer because "the itinerary is secret, the travel route
is secret, there are decoys that go along with it."
Millar said he understands the Obama team's desire "to have a president
that enters his term of office with a big reassuring message," but
believes that traveling by rail down the east coast corridor could pose
"There's only two ways to escape: One is forward and one is backward,"
he said. "It's just a very inherently dangerous situation."