Tags: Heavy | Security | Marks | Capital | Memorial | Day

Heavy Security Marks Capital Memorial Day

Monday, 27 May 2002 12:00 AM

Under the hot afternoon sun, several thousands of motorcycles -- taking part in the annual Rolling Thunder Memorial Day ride honoring POWs, MIAs and veterans from all wars -- filled the streets around Washington's memorials.

The U.S. Park Police refused to estimate the number of participants, but WUSA-TV local news conservatively placed the number of motorcycles at 30,000 while the Rolling Thunder spokeswoman estimated that 350,000 riders rode through Washington in this year's event.

With police cars closing streets and no traffic diversion signs up, frustrated drivers ended up in stopped-up traffic while trying to negotiate around a large blocked-off area.

Washington's Metro transit police were also scheduled to be out in full force amid Transportation Department warnings of unconfirmed reports of attacks against subway trains.

The day's planned events went on even as congressional leaders on Sunday talk shows criticized the nation's security organizations.

Questioning the handling of intelligence information prior to Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, Sen. Tom Daschle, D-S.D., the Senate Majority leader told "Meet the Press," "I have confidence in Mr. [Robert] Mueller [FBI director]. I think he's doing a good job.

"[But] there's got to be change of attitude, a change of environment, a change in the way -- the mentality, I think, of all of this. And as I said, it's also a stovepipe problem. ... You've got the FBI not sharing the CIA and the CIA not sharing with the homeland defense."

On CNN's "Late Edition," Sen. Carl Levin, D-Mich., who chairs the Armed Services Committee, and Sen. Arlen Specter, R-Pa., also voiced criticism.

"I'm extremely dissatisfied with the FBI, both before September 11th, given the number of missed signals, but also after September 11th," said Levin. "I'm dissatisfied with the failure to look into their own failures."

"I think that the FBI has a lot of questions to answer," said Specter, when asked "Do you have confidence in the FBI right now?"

He told CNN that the issues surrounding Sept. 11 have become even more pressing, given that "top administration officials are telling us that another attack, even with weapons of mass destruction, may be imminent."

House Intelligence Committee Chairman Porter Goss, R-Fla., added to the debate. During a "Fox News Sunday" interview, he said the FBI needs to do more to counter domestic terrorism, adding the FBI needs "retraining."

Recent revelations concerning the handling of intelligence information prior to Sept. 11 have led to calls for a congressional investigation. Some have also urged the creation of a special panel to look into the matter.

The new twist in the story last week made more headlines. A letter sent to Mueller by Minnesota FBI Agent Coleen Rowley with copies reportedly delivered to congressional intelligence committees blasted the FBI's handling of information before Sept. 11.

In a response posted on the FBI's Web site, Mueller said, "I am convinced that a different approach is required. New strategies, new technologies, new analytical capacities and a different culture make us an agency that is changing post 9/11. There is no room after the attacks for the types of problems and attitudes that could inhibit our efforts."

According to a Time/CNN poll released Saturday, 17 percent of American respondents said they had a great deal of confidence in the FBI's ability to prevent future terrorist attacks, 55 percent had "just some" and 19 percent said "not much."

However, 71 percent had some or a great deal of confidence in the CIA and FBI preventing another attack.

Sunday those numbers appeared accurate as an evening Memorial Day concert went on as planned for the West Lawn of the Capitol. Charlotte Church, Joe Mantegna, Chicago, Tony Danza, Ossie Davis and the National Symphony Orchestra were scheduled to appear.

Security was tight with visitors passing through security check points and metal detectors. Bags and coolers were also being checked with X-ray screening.

"It's been very orderly. ... No lines for security screen," Lt. Dan Nichols, spokesman for U.S. Capitol Police. "We hope the weather holds." He said that while no official estimates were available, he estimated tens of thousands at the concert.

Copyright 2002 by United Press International.

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Under the hot afternoon sun, several thousands of motorcycles -- taking part in the annual Rolling Thunder Memorial Day ride honoring POWs, MIAs and veterans from all wars -- filled the streets around Washington's memorials. The U.S. Park Police refused to estimate the...
Heavy,Security,Marks,Capital,Memorial,Day
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2002-00-27
Monday, 27 May 2002 12:00 AM
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