Stepped-Up Security for State of the Union

Security presence likely to deter attacks, but law agencies asked to stay alert.

Jan. 24, 2008— -- As President Bush prepares to deliver his last State of the Union address Monday, security around Washington D.C. is beefing up.

The Department of Homeland Security and the FBI have prepared a recent threat assessment that was distributed to law enforcement in the Washington metropolitan area Wednesday.

According to law enforcement and Homeland Security officials, in the coming days DHS will announce that DHS Secretary Michael Chertoff will designate the event a "national security special event."

The report, obtained by ABC News, cites no specific or credible intelligence that indicates terrorists are planning to target the annual speech, but the notice reminds law enforcement officials to remain vigilant.

"The heavy and highly visible security surrounding the U.S. Capitol Building attendant to the State of the Union Address will likely deter terrorist attacks," it says. "Federal, state and local law enforcement agencies, however, should remain alert to terrorist preoperational planning and any suspicious activities such as surveillance around all event and related sites."

Designating the event as a National Security Special Event will make the U.S. Secret Service the lead agency for planning security for the speech, which will take place Monday, Jan. 28, at 9 p.m.

The threat assessment highlights recent speeches and messages by al Qaeda leadership, such as Ayman al-Zawahiri's December video, which was released on the Internet. in the video, al Qaeda's second in command repeated the call for attacks against U.S. interests.

Despite the video releases from al Qaeda leadership, the threat assessment notes that Hezbollah, the Lebanese terrorist group, is the most capable of attacking U.S. interests.

"Of the international terrorist groups known to target U.S. interests, Hezbollah and its affiliates are the most capable actors. Hezbollah has operatives and sympathizers in the United States, although its current activities focus on fundraising, propaganda and recruitment," the assessment states.

"The IC [intelligence community] judges that Hezbollah leaders do not view an attack in the homeland at this juncture as advantageous or prudent to their cause."

With the president, vice president, members of Congress, the Joint Chiefs of Staff and several Supreme Court justices expected to attend the State of the Union address, security will be very tight in the nation's capital in the days and hours before the president addresses the country.

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