Security Formidable for Visitby John Trumbo
Tri-City Herald, August 23, 2003
All eyes were not on President Bush on Friday as he visited at the Tri-Cities Airport and Ice Harbor Dam.
Some were warily watching the crowd of those jostling for a glimpse of the nation's commander in chief.
The watchers included Secret Service agents, airport police and Tri-City law enforcement officers.
The Richland Police Department brought its bomb squad, just in case, and two men used oversized binoculars to keep an eye on the scene at the airport from atop the air traffic control tower.
Security was even tighter at Ice Harbor Dam, where dozens of men in black stood at observation posts along the dam and Secret Service agents were positioned among the 500 invited guests, scanning the crowd.
The president's approach and exit from the podium to his limousine was through parallel lines of hay bales that had been piled 8 feet high so he wasn't visible to the public or news media.
Security checks on news media equipment at the dam and airport included using inspectors and bomb-sniffing dogs to check boxes of camera lenses and computers.
All journalists at the dam had to go through metal detectors, then were directed through metal fencing to a confined area apart from the invited guests.
Several journalists at the dam discovered that their communications equipment, such as satellite phones and cell phones, wouldn't work until Bush's visit was finished.
The motorcade from Pasco to the dam crossed over the Burlington Northern Santa Fe hump yard on Interstate 182 at Fourth Avenue, where there were no rail cars under or beneath the highway bridge.
Similarly, there were no boats moving under the Snake River bridge as the president's motorcade crossed into Walla Walla County at Burbank on the way to the dam.
Minutes before the president's Boeing 757 landed at the Pasco airport, a helicopter flew low around the airport perimeter.
The airport remained open for commercial flights, but there was a yellow security alert, which restricted public access to certain areas.
The president's motorcade exited the airport from the west side by the airport employees' parking lot. It returned for his 11:20 a.m. departure on a Boeing 747 by entering the tarmac on the far east side, not using the loop road that passes in front of the terminal.
There was no need for Bush to enter the airport terminal, and he did not come into contact with any members of the public who had gathered by the hundreds at the airport to see him.
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