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Tight security for State of the Union address

Hundreds of federal agents cover area

From Patty Davis
CNN Washington Bureau

The U.S. Capitol on Tuesday evening
The U.S. Capitol on Tuesday evening

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CNN's special team coverage of the State of the Union address begins at 8:45 p.m. EST Tuesday. 

WASHINGTON CNN -- The Federal Aviation Administration has doubled the size of the no-fly zone over Washington for Tuesday night's State of the Union address by President Bush at the Capitol.

Fighter jets will patrol the skies and two Blackhawk helicopters will be in the air to intercept any possible low-flying aircraft -- part of what one FBI official described as "unprecedented" security for the presidential address.

Thirteen law enforcement agencies, led by the U.S. Capitol Police and assisted by the Secret Service, will have personnel on the Capitol grounds. That security contingent will include 1,500 U.S. Capitol Police officers and 250 FBI agents.

U.S. Capitol Police Chief Terrance Gainer said there have been no specific threats against the Capitol.

"But knowing that we could be attacked -- that the terrorists on 9/11 tried to come here and normally they repeat their activities -- is one of the reasons that we're taking extra guard tonight," Gainer told CNN.

He said the law enforcement community has put in "a lot of planning, a lot of dress rehearsals" to prevent any possible attack.

"This is going to be a safe place tonight," Gainer said.

The FAA no-fly zone is in effect within a 30-nautical mile radius and 18,000 feet in the air above Reagan National Airport from 8 p.m. to 11 p.m. ET.

The usual no-fly zone covers a 15-nautical mile radius. But it was extended for Bush's speech at the request of other government agencies.

FAA spokesman Bill Shumann said scheduled commercial flights within that area -- namely at Reagan National Airport, Dulles International Airport and Baltimore-Washington International Airport -- will be permitted to take off and land.

But all other flights -- mostly by privately-owned aircraft -- will be barred.

Planes that violate the air space restrictions risk being intercepted by U.S. F-16s or the Blackhawk helicopters.

The FAA often puts these no-fly zones into effect during big events. There was one in New York City on New Year's Eve for the ball drop in Times Square to protect people on the ground. There was also a temporary flight restriction over Qualcomm Stadium in San Diego during the Super Bowl last weekend.

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