Hi-tech security for U.S. President’s visit

GPS devices, satellite images will be tracking his convoy’s movements

January 21, 2015 12:40 am | Updated April 01, 2016 10:37 pm IST - NEW DELHI:

Global Positioning System (GPS) tracking devices and satellite images would be used by intelligence and security agencies to keep a constant watch on the movements of U.S. President Barack Obama’s convoy during his visit.

It is learnt that a dedicated joint control room consisting of senior Indian and U.S. security officials has been set up to monitor the security arrangements for Mr. Obama. A part of ITC Maurya, where the U.S. President will stay, has been converted into a control room.

As a precautionary measure, agencies may block public access to online GPS maps of about a dozen places in Delhi, which Mr. Obama is scheduled to visit. GPS maps of all venues have been designed to keep track of his movement. However, no drones will be deployed for aerial surveillance.

U.S. sleuths have brought along anti-sabotage scanners to sanitise the venues in coordination with their Indian counterparts.

Cyber security experts have been engaged for surveillance of suspicious online activity. Mr. Obama will use his own vehicle ‘The Beast.’ “His will be a larger cavalcade with over two dozen vehicles,” said an official.

Following several rounds of meetings, it has been decided that on Republic Day, Mr. Obama will not accompany President Pranab Mukherjee to the parade venue, but will arrive in his 18-foot long Presidential car with Mr. Mukherjee’s cavalcade.

“In 2007, as the chief guest at the Republic Day parade, the then Russian President Vladimir Putin had also used his own vehicle,” said the official. The entire city will be turned into a no-fly zone, allowing only the flypast of Indian Air Force aircraft.

‘The Beast’ is an explosion-proof heavily armoured vehicle fitted with a night vision system. It is a virtual shield capable of withstanding biochemical attacks and has its own oxygen supply mechanism. The seven-seater vehicle functions as a control room for the U.S. President to remain in touch with the Pentagon and senior U.S. government functionaries through video-conferencing or encrypted satellite phone communications. It is fitted with emergency medical equipment and has a bank of his blood type. The vehicle’s fuel tank, with a special foam coating, is armour-plated and its doors have eight-inch-thick armour plating. The car’s five-inch-thick windows are bulletproof. Its driver undergoes special week-long training at a secret service academy.

For security reasons, the government may close the Yamuna Expressway connecting Delhi to Agra to facilitate Mr. Obama’s visit to the Taj Mahal. “We are yet to take a final decision in this regard. However, for VVIP movements, there always has to be an arrangement for alternative routes,” the official added.

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