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Fingerprinting required for inauguration credentials

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    News Media Update         WASHINGTON, D.C.         Newsgathering    

Fingerprinting required for inauguration credentials

  • Cameramen and photographers who cover President Bush’s second swearing-in Jan. 20 and journalists who want to enter the U.S. Capitol that day will need special credentials.

Dec. 16, 2004 — Journalists who want to go inside the U.S. Capitol on Inauguration Day or observe the outdoor swearing-in ceremony from viewing stands must undergo fingerprinting and background checks as part of a special credentialing process.

Reporters, photographers and cameramen must submit their names, Social Security numbers and birth dates for the background checks and be fingerprinted for a special one-day inaugural ID. Journalists who already have a White House press pass will not need to have another background check under the beefed-up security measures.

“Clearly 9/11 has changed everything,” said Jim Drinkard, a USA Today reporter and chairman of the Standing Committee of Correspondents, which accredits reporters working in the Capitol.

The Capitol Police, the Secret Service and the U.S. Army Military District of Washington — which all have security roles in the Jan. 20 inauguration — mandated the fingerprinting and other measures.

“It does sound extreme, but these guys are feeling their way through the first post-9/11 inauguration. . . . They are the security experts and we’re giving them the benefit of the doubt,” Drinkard said.

Reporters who cover the inaugural from a press seating area on the west side of the Capitol do not need the special inaugural ID but must apply for seats, said Jerry Gallegos, superintendent of the House Press Gallery.

“Anyone who wants to go to the swearing-in on the West Side, they aren’t going to notice any difference” from past inaugurations, Gallegos said.

Television cameramen and photographers will be most affected by the new rules since they cover the ceremony from viewing stands and not the press seating, Drinkard said.

The new policy was designed for security and not meant to curb the media, Gallegos said.

“There’s always a reason to want to keep an eye on the rights of the media [but] I have seen nothing that impinges on the rights of the news media” in this policy, he said.

Gallegos stressed that the special credentialing is only for Jan. 20.

“We don’t expect this to be policy beyond this special event,” he said.


© 2004 The Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press

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