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Biden Team Is Confident His Inauguration Will Be Safe

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The American flag flies at half-staff as inauguration construction continues on the west front of the US Capitol on Jan. 9.The proceedings that will take place on the morning of Jan. 20, in public view on the west front of the United States Capitol, just steps from the insurrection that killed five people, endangered Congress and the vice president, and led to the resignation of the Capitol Police chief, amount to what is known in Washington, DC, as a “National Special Security Event."You will hear a lot more about National Special Security Events, aka NSSEs, in the next eight days. NSSEs are not events so much as occurrences of great national interest, identified at the discretion of the sitting secretary of Homeland Security: the visit of Pope Francis, the Olympic Games in Salt Lake City, certain Super Bowls, the funeral of Ronald Reagan, G8 summits, and every inauguration since President Bill Clinton created the NSSE designation in 1998 as part of a security framework for marshaling “the full protective and consequence management capabilities of the Federal Government.”To compare the security footprint of even a “normal” inauguration to what was in place ahead of the violence in the Capitol on Jan. 6, according to interviews with people involved in the planning of the event, former government officials, and security experts, would be to underestimate the sheer scale of an event like the inauguration and the confidence of Washington in at least some of its own systems.Chief among them, they say, is the NSSE.“The alphabet soup of federal agencies, working with local counterparts, is a very carefully choreographed Kabuki dance,” said Jon Wackrow, the head of security at Teneo, a global advisory firm, and a former USSS agent of 14 years who worked more than a dozen NSSEs.The USSS, which lists NSSEs as a key component of its mission statement, declined to answer questions about the planning of an NSSE. Asked whether preparation for the event had been substantively affected by the events of Jan. 6, an inauguration official only pointed to the recent addition of two elements to the day’s proceedings — a visit to Arlington National Cemetery and a public art installation on the National Mall — as evidence they are moving ahead as planned.The art installation will feature approximately 191,500 flags of varying sizes scattered across the mall as well as 56 “pillars of light,” representing the states and territories to honor “the American people who are unable to travel to Washington, DC,” according to the press release, “and reflect PIC’s commitment to an inclusive and safe event that everyone can enjoy from their home.”The flag spread will serve an added purpose, one organizer said: preventing crowds, be they friendly or not, from gathering on the lawn.Ruby Cramer is a politics reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in New York.Contact Ruby Cramer at a confidential tip?

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