Panic over false bomb alert before Obama sworn in

As the United States prepared 12 months ago for the historic inauguration of Barack Obama as the nation's new president, top-level officials of the incoming team and of the departing administration of George Bush were jointly trying to deal with a potentially devastating terror threat, which, in the end, proved not to be real.

Alarms were sounded – though never made public – when anti-terrorism officials revealed that they had what they considered plausible information about a group of Somali extremists crossing the border from Canada and potentially detonating a series of explosions at the moment that Mr Obama was being sworn in.

According to a report to be carried in next Sunday's New York Times magazine, the threat was taken so seriously that Defence Secretary Robert Gates, the only person who was to be carried over from the Bush administration into the cabinet of President-elect Obama, was dispatched out of Washington and to a secret location where he remained until after the inauguration was over.

If the worst had happened and Mr Obama and Vice President-elect Joe Biden were not sworn in and killed, Mr Gates would be next in line to be president.

"All the data points suggested there was a real threat evolving quickly that had an overseas component," Juan Carlos Zarate, Mr Bush's deputy national security adviser for combating terrorism, is quoted as telling the Times writer. The signs of a plot "seemed to be growing in credibility and relevance."

While the public was oblivious to what was happening, the hours before the inauguration saw frenzied activity by anti-terror leaders and top aides to both Mr Bush and Mr Obama, the Times said. It included a meeting shortly before the swearing in of the country's top national security aides inside the Situation Room of the White House.

Condoleezza Rice and Stephen Hadley, who had worked on national security for Mr Bush, wrestled alongside Hillary Clinton and James Jones, now the national security adviser, over what the response would be in the event the bombs did go off and the swearing in ceremony dissolved into a potentially bloody shambles.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Personal Tax Senior

£28000 - £37000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an opportunity to join ...

Recruitment Genius: Customer and Markets Development Executive

£22000 - £29000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company's mission is to ma...

Recruitment Genius: Guest Services Assistant

£13832 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This 5 star leisure destination on the w...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Account Manager

£20000 - £32000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Sales Account Manager is requ...

Day In a Page

A nap a day could save your life - and here's why

A nap a day could save your life

A midday nap is 'associated with reduced blood pressure'
If men are so obsessed by sex, why do they clam up when confronted with the grisly realities?

If men are so obsessed by sex...

...why do they clam up when confronted with the grisly realities?
The comedy titans of Avalon on their attempt to save BBC3

Jon Thoday and Richard Allen-Turner

The comedy titans of Avalon on their attempt to save BBC3
The bathing machine is back... but with a difference

Rolling in the deep

The bathing machine is back but with a difference
Part-privatised tests, new age limits, driverless cars: Tories plot motoring revolution

Conservatives plot a motoring revolution

Draft report reveals biggest reform to regulations since driving test introduced in 1935
The Silk Roads that trace civilisation: Long before the West rose to power, Asian pathways were connecting peoples and places

The Silk Roads that trace civilisation

Long before the West rose to power, Asian pathways were connecting peoples and places
House of Lords: Outcry as donors, fixers and MPs caught up in expenses scandal are ennobled

The honours that shame Britain

Outcry as donors, fixers and MPs caught up in expenses scandal are ennobled
When it comes to street harassment, we need to talk about race

'When it comes to street harassment, we need to talk about race'

Why are black men living the stereotypes and why are we letting them get away with it?
International Tap Festival: Forget Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers - this dancing is improvised, spontaneous and rhythmic

International Tap Festival comes to the UK

Forget Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers - this dancing is improvised, spontaneous and rhythmic
War with Isis: Is Turkey's buffer zone in Syria a matter of self-defence – or just anti-Kurd?

Turkey's buffer zone in Syria: self-defence – or just anti-Kurd?

Ankara accused of exacerbating racial division by allowing Turkmen minority to cross the border
Doris Lessing: Acclaimed novelist was kept under MI5 observation for 18 years, newly released papers show

'A subversive brothel keeper and Communist'

Acclaimed novelist Doris Lessing was kept under MI5 observation for 18 years, newly released papers show
Big Blue Live: BBC's Springwatch offshoot swaps back gardens for California's Monterey Bay

BBC heads to the Californian coast

The Big Blue Live crew is preparing for the first of three episodes on Sunday night, filming from boats, planes and an aquarium studio
Austin Bidwell: The Victorian fraudster who shook the Bank of England with the most daring forgery the world had known

Victorian fraudster who shook the Bank of England

Conman Austin Bidwell. was a heartless cad who carried out the most daring forgery the world had known
Car hacking scandal: Security designed to stop thieves hot-wiring almost every modern motor has been cracked

Car hacking scandal

Security designed to stop thieves hot-wiring almost every modern motor has been cracked
10 best placemats

Take your seat: 10 best placemats

Protect your table and dine in style with a bold new accessory