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Sen. Feinstein Launches Investigation into Ticket Fiasco

We told you earlier today that the Joint Congressional Committe on Inaugural Ceremonies apologized for the problems that kept thousands of ticket holders locked out of the swearing-in ceremony Tuesday. Now, Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), who chairs that committee, has issued a separate statement saying she has launched an investigation of the matter:

I have just spoken with Mark Sullivan, Director of the Secret Service, and I have asked him to convene, along with the U.S. Capitol Police, all law enforcement and other parties involved in planning for this Inaugural to conduct a prompt investigation into two serious incidents that have been reported. These reports have prompted great concern by members of the Inaugural Committee, including Senator Bob Bennett, and by Congress in general.
The specific incidents include the report that a decision was made to cut off access to Purple and Blue standing areas, which meant that a large number of ticketholders could not reach their designated areas.
I also aware of the incident involving the 3 rd Street Tunnel, where thousands of people were stuck for several hours and apparently without any law enforcement presence.
There may have also been other irregularities, but I have heard enough to know that something went wrong and we need to find out what happened. Mr. Sullivan has indicated that he will provide a full report.
I would encourage people who have direct information about these incidents to contact the Secret Service, in addition to contacting the Joint Congressional Committee for Inaugural Ceremonies at feedback@jccic.senate.gov

By David A Nakamura  |  January 21, 2009; 9:08 PM ET  | Category:  Crowds , Security , Swearing-in Ceremony , Tickets
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I hope everyone who had tickets and was turned away will email the committee. Let them not only inquire into what went wrong, but into the unbelievable frustration and heartbreak and potential danger the lack of proper planning and staffing caused.

Posted by: lbeckwith | January 21, 2009 10:22 PM | Report abuse

Why don't they start with the person who decided it would be a good idea to open the security gates at 9 a.m.?

Posted by: BDG32 | January 21, 2009 10:43 PM | Report abuse

It is with a heavy heart, tremendous disappointment and a fair amount of anger that I write this. I was one of the tens of thousands that held a blue ticket to yesterday’s inauguration and never made it in. Never even made it close despite the fact that we stood in line for 3+ hours. Furthermore, I was no where near the tunnel that today's PIC statement of apology refers to. And I can assure you there were far more than 3 or 4 thousand people around me that didn’t get in either; the vast majority with the appropriate ticket.

The blue access gate was a total debacle. There was absolutely ZERO supervision maintaining any flow or order. It is a miracle that no one was crushed in the surge we experienced and that tempers and frustrations didn't flair. If a generator went down as we heard at one point how could there be no back up generator readily available? In cold weather this should have been planned for. And when the blue lines became impossibly bottle necked due to too many access points and NO manpower to supervise, how come no one thought to re-route us to more open access points, like the orange check points which we could see moving smoothly? In addition, your statement says some ticket holders didn’t get in because sections reached capacity. We had friends in the blue section that did make it through. They reported plenty of available space. In addition, when we watched the ceremony hours later on tape we could see visible stretches of green where we were supposed to be standing. At the very least why weren't TV monitors moved near the lines when it became apparent that thousands of ticket holders would miss the ceremony all together?!

I personally traveled from Ohio for this inauguration. I closed my business and hired babysitters to watch my children. So did those with me. My tickets were obtained after I housed the Ohio Field Director for nearly 6 months and worked tirelessly for the Obama campaign in Ohio. I was invited by the PIC to attend the swearing in. Today I feel as if that moment I worked so hard to help achieve was robbed from me forever.

Of course I realize there are no do-over’s. I do however believe the PIC can do more than apologize. The internet is alive tonight with many sound suggestions. Perhaps there can be a reception at the White House for those of us who suffered because of the PIC’s mistakes? Or at the very least start collecting names and make sure we are the first to receive SEATS four years from now. That is assuming any of us would have the heart, courage or will to come back.

Posted by: mfleisher1 | January 21, 2009 10:49 PM | Report abuse

I share your disappointment, mfleisher1. I was in the Purple line just after 5 and was not able to get in. I traveled over 2,000 roundtrip to witness history. I wasn't even able to get to a bar to see or hear the swearing in. Utter and complete disappointment.

Posted by: cyclone1 | January 21, 2009 10:52 PM | Report abuse

My daughter and I had blue tickets for the inaugural ceremony. Like thousands of others we braved the cold for hours, waiting to clear security so we could stand at the bottom of the capitol steps and watch this historic occasion. But it never happened.

The thousands of us standing in line (actually was there was no line, only a mass of confused and disappointed Obama supporters) were without direction, information, porta-potties, and security. One lone sign was posted at knee level and provided no guidance as to where we should go. A police officer appeared sporadically to ask people to move behind the white line, which had no relevance to the chaos surrounding us. The occasional uniformed person who did show up told us nothing, then disappeared. No one was in charge, no one helped us. No one of authority was even there.

I was inclined to feel sorry for my daughter and myself until we heard the story of a man who had traveled a long distance and spent thousands of dollars to get to Washington. He had taken five days off work--and didn't get to see the ceremony. It was heartbreaking.

The good news is that we were all civil, helpful, and excited about Obama. But we were very disappointed.

Posted by: betsyk1059 | January 21, 2009 11:56 PM | Report abuse

Never in my entire life have I seen such massive mismanagement and complete lack of organization! It's a Really good thing that the crowd was full of Happy, Well behaved folks because this could have turned into a death trap very quickly!First of all they knew that we were expecting Millions of people but only prepared for hundreds. This should Not have been a surprise!I am a fifth generation Washingtonian and am scared to think of what DC would do in a real emergency!Why couldn'they think to ask Disney to come up and help them organize? There was No line! Just a Massive Mob, Trapped between fences and funneled into a ridiculous situation! 13 check points for Thousands of people?!?!The people who actually were in line, did Not get in! The Mob from the other side who broke into line, Did get in!There was NO ONE directing Anything! There were no signs or signs that meant Nothing! There were police cars parked in line! There was No handicapped access so there were folks in wheel chairs in this Mess!There were three Police officers who couldn't tell us Anything but please stay on the other side of the white line!The only problem was that THERE WAS NO LINE!No direction, No Organization, No Volunteers, No Plan!! Awfull!!

Posted by: Eurythmy2 | January 22, 2009 5:51 AM | Report abuse

While the buzz is about the blue and purple ticketholders, I would like to voice my complaint about the largest ticket area: silver. My wife and two children were fortunate to obtain four silver tickets. We arrived hours early only to face a line whose screening gate started at the 3rd Street and Independence Avenue SW and ended at 6th and C Streets SW. According to GoogleMaps that equates to 3/4 of a mile. Needless to say, the line barely moved and by the time my family decided we weren’t going to get anywhere near the checkpoint, it was too late and we missed the swearing-in and inaugural speech entirely. This begs the following questions. Whose decision was it to open the gates at 9am? Did officials have enough checkpoints and enough screening area personnel? Did officials truly believe they were going to get tens of thousands of silver ticketholders through the gates in two-and-a-half hours?

Posted by: skamanbill | January 22, 2009 9:19 AM | Report abuse

We flew in from Seattle. Took days off work, hired a baby-sitter to watch our 1 year-old twins. Booked costly hotel rooms, rented a car... All of this on our tight family budget - using the money we could have spent on a family vacation instead, before my husband's next deployment to Iraq or Afganistan - wherenever his country would send him in the future... Well, we had blue tickets, that ended up tickets to nowhere. Stood in line at the gate for hours. Like everyone here - were not let in. It was ourageous and heartbreaking. It made me feel sick to my stomach, really.
At the end of the day, I was thinking - well, maybe the planners actually got what they wanted - drew thousands of people from other states who bought airline tickets and made other costly arrangements. Was the goal to stimulate our falling apart economy? We all were sold Obama stuff: t-shirts, buttons, etc. Well, the tickets, although given to us for free by a senator, turned out to be just the same stuff - we spent a lot of money because of those tickets. Good job!
Another question - ok, lack of police and lack of any assistance, afforts to CREATE crowds - I saw it all that day. So, what was the goal - to initiate riots? Did somebody in the planning committee had in mind another picture? We were lucky to stay safe, people in those lines were absolutely amazing people. But it still was a miracle that nobody got hurt.

Posted by: Sunshines1976 | January 22, 2009 6:18 PM | Report abuse

Some "free country,' huh?

De-fund Homeland Security and their Secret Service syncophants now! Yeagh!!!

Posted by: bs2004 | January 22, 2009 6:41 PM | Report abuse

I'm adding my disappointment to the list. My husband and I had tickets to the parade, and after arriving at the train station, we walked to the access gate that we were instructed to go to in the information that came with the tickets, but we were told that the crowd was at capacity and to try other areas. We tried until 3 o'clock, and realized that security was letting in a person every 3 minutes or so, and at that rate the parade would be over. We went back to the train station. Not only did we not get into the parade, but we didn't even see or hear the swearing in ceremony, because we were at the appointed access gate waiting to get in for the parade. There should have been some method of handling people with tickets, instead of letting people rush in and fill the capacity (300,000 we were told by the police at the gate) To say the least we are very disappointed,and have spent hundreds of dollars and wait in the bitter cold, and turn around and come home.

Posted by: cbrushwood | January 23, 2009 4:47 PM | Report abuse

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