January 21, 2009 in Nation/World

Inauguration in brief: Threat probed as event unfolds


The swearing-in of Barack Obama came off without a security-related hitch Tuesday, but underneath the calm veneer, authorities were intensively investigating a report that a group of Somalia-based militants wanted to launch an inauguration-related attack.

Secret Service officials oversaw what was by far the largest security operation for a presidential inauguration, marshaling the forces of several dozen federal, state and local law enforcement and intelligence agencies.

Their biggest white-knuckle moment: when the new president and first lady exited their heavily fortified limousine and walked along long stretches of Pennsylvania Avenue on their way from the U.S. Capitol to the White House.

Russ Knocke, chief spokesman for the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, said the FBI, the Secret Service and other Department of Homeland Security agencies were investigating and analyzing information “about a potential threat on Inauguration Day.”

One federal law enforcement official said the threat involved individuals affiliated with al-Shabaab, a radical Islamist extremist group active in Somalia.

Justice’s slip-up spurs oath error

The oath of office is required of a president before he can execute his powers, and the Constitution is clear that its 35 words must be spoken exactly.

Which is what makes the oath President Obama took Tuesday before nearly 2 million spectators so interesting. It might be that they didn’t actually witness Obama being sworn in.

Because of a noticeable gaffe by Chief Justice John Roberts, Obama transposed the words. He should have said he will “faithfully execute the Office of President of the United States” but instead said he will “execute the Office of President of the United States faithfully.”

Constitutional law experts agree that the flub is insignificant. Yet two previous presidents – Calvin Coolidge and Chester Arthur – repeated the oath privately because of similar issues.

Lawyers said Obama need not be worried about legitimacy, but they said a do-over couldn’t hurt.

“He should probably go ahead and take the oath again,” said Jonathan Turley, a constitutional law professor at George Washington University. “If he doesn’t, there are going to be people who for the next four years are going to argue that he didn’t meet the constitutional standard. I don’t think it’s necessary, and it’s not a constitutional crisis. This is the chief justice’s version of a wardrobe malfunction.”

Bush twins offer advice to girls

Just in time for move-in day, the Bush twins offered their best advice Tuesday to Sasha and Malia Obama on living in a “magical place” called the White House.

In an open letter to the Obama kids, 27-year-olds Barbara Bush and Jenna Hager advised the girls to relish it all – to “go to anything and everything you possibly can.”

The twins reminisced about their favorite memories, and gave plenty of specific advice:

•Surround yourselves with loyal friends.

•Trick-or-treat down the plane aisle if you’re traveling on Halloween.

•Cherish your pets “because sometimes you’ll need the quiet comfort that only animals can provide.”

•And this: “Slide down the banister of the solarium, go to T-ball games, have swimming parties, and play Sardines on the White House lawn. Have fun and enjoy your childhood in such a magical place to live and play.”

From wire reports

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