Skip to comments.Terror Alert in U.S. Raised to'High'
Posted on 05/21/2003 1:04:38 AM PDT by JustPiper
WASHINGTON (AP) -- Federal counterterrorism authorities called for increased security nationwide by raising the security alert to "high" but provided few specifics on where al-Qaida could strike inside the country.
Officials, fearful al-Qaida could expand its plans for a wave of attacks overseas into the United States, said they had nothing credible suggesting a time, location, method or target.
The decision to raise the national alert to orange, signifying a "high" risk of attacks, from yellow, meaning an "elevated" risk, came after a review of intelligence information by President Bush's homeland security council Tuesday, White House spokesman Ari Fleischer said. Orange is the second-highest on the five-color alert scale.
Around the country, state and local authorities stepped up security measures. Police in California worked 12-hour shifts. National Guard troops in New York were called up to protect subways and bridges. In Washington, the Capitol police SWAT team prepared to conduct random patrols.
The Federal Aviation Administration is planning to temporarily prohibit flights over sports stadiums and restrict small private planes flying within a 17.25-mile radius of the Washington Monument, said agency spokeswoman Laura Brown.
The FAA will also require private planes flying into three Washington-area airports - College Park, Potomac and Washington Executive/Hyde - to first land at Tipton Airport in Maryland so the pilots can be checked, Brown said.
Federal law-enforcement officials said that among the intelligence picked up recently were two electronic transmissions that discussed the possibility of an attack on New York, Washington, Boston and more broadly the U.S. coastlines.
The officials, speaking on condition of anonymity, said there were doubts about the credibility of the threats and stressed that they were not the driving factors in the decision to raise the threat level.
Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge encouraged governors and mayors to deploy extra police and take other precautions, particularly at large public gatherings during Memorial Day weekend.
Overseas, where fears of imminent terrorism was even greater, U.S. officials also took additional security measures. The United States, Britain and Germany temporarily closed their embassies and consulates in Saudi Arabia.
American counterterrorism officials suspect last week's bombings in Saudi Arabia and Morocco are part of a coordinated campaign to prove al-Qaida is still dangerous. Officials suspect senior al-Qaida leaders hiding in Iran are orchestrating the attacks, but Iran denies sheltering anyone from Osama bin Laden's network.
"The U.S. intelligence community believes that al-Qaida has entered an operational period worldwide, and this may include attacks in the United States," Ridge said.
Ridge warned of attacks similar to those in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, where gunmen fought with guards before suicide bombers detonated truck bombs at several lightly defended residential complexes.
The Bush administration has raised the terror alert level from "elevated" to "high" three times previously, setting off a flurry of increased security measures by cities, states and businesses. Each time, the level was lowered after a few weeks. The lowest two levels, green and blue, and the highest, red, have not been used since the system was put in place more than a year ago.
During the earlier alerts, apparently no domestic attacks were attempted. This has led some to question whether the "high" alerts do anything more than frighten the public and cost taxpayer dollars, but the administration says they may help deter attacks.
"Raising the alert level is prudent when the circumstances warrant doing that, but each time it means direct costs to state and local governments," said Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt. "We are continually tapping the coffers of local police, fire and rescue units to counter these threats, and many of them are being tapped out."
The last time it was raised was during the Iraq war. It went down after most hostilities ended.
The alert system is designed to guide law enforcement agencies, businesses and the general public in their security decisions, and it is mostly up to local governments and companies to decide how.
Changes are driven by world events and information gathered by U.S. intelligence agencies, such as monitored communications between terrorists. This "chatter" sometimes increases before an attack.
Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld said U.S. anti-terrorism efforts have hurt al-Qaida, although the network is still capable of attacks.
US DOJ.gov - Press Release: "MUKHTAR AL-BAKRI PLEADS GUILTY TO PROVIDING MATERIAL SUPPORT TO AL QAEDA" (ARTICLE SNIPPET: "WASHINGTON, D.C. - Attorney General John Ashcroft, Assistant Attorney General Michael Chertoff of the Criminal Division, and U.S. Attorney Michael Battle of the Western District of New York announced today that Mukhtar al-Bakri, the last of the six defendants indicted as part of the Buffalo cell case, has pleaded guilty to a charge of providing material support to the al Qaeda terrorist organization. Al-Bakri, of Lackawanna, N.Y., entered the plea to a charge of providing material support or resources to a designated foreign terrorist organization at federal court in Buffalo, N.Y., this afternoon before Judge William M. Skretny. All six defendants charged in an October 2002 federal indictment have now pleaded guilty and agreed to cooperate with ongoing investigations. The two-count indictment last year charged the defendants with providing material support or resources to a designated foreign terrorist organization, based on their attendance at an al Qaeda-affiliated training camp. In court today, al-Bakri pleaded guilty to Count Two of the indictment, a violation of 18 U.S.C. 2339B, and admitted that he provided material support to al Qaeda by obtaining a uniform, traveling to the al Farooq training camp near Kandahar, Afghanistan, and providing guard duty at the training camp. He also admitted receiving weapons training and meeting with Usama bin Laden while at the al Farooq camp. The charge to which al-Bakri pleaded guilty to, a violation of 18 U.S.C. 2339B, carries a maximum sentence of 10 years in jail, a fine of $250,000, or both.") (May 19, 2003) (Read More...)
NY DAILY NEWS.com: "HIJACKER PAL NEAR W RANCH" by James Gordon Meek (ARTICLE SNIPPET: "WASHINGTON - Counterterror officials suspect that an Arab student linked to one of the Sept. 11 hijackers may have cased the presidential ranch in Crawford, Tex. - six months before the 9/11 attacks. Muhammad Al-Gurashi and three other Arab men suspected of close ties to hijacker Hani Hanjour rented a car in Phoenix and drove to Freeport, Tex., in March 2001, intelligence and law enforcement sources say.") (May 16, 2003) (Read More...)
COURT TV.com (AP): "MOUSSAOUI CONTENDS HE WAS PREPARING FOR ROLE IN POST SEPTEMBER 11 ATTACKS" (ARTICLE SNIPPET: "WASHINGTON (AP) -- Rather than participate in the Sept. 11 attacks, Zacarias Moussaoui contends he was prepping for a later al-Qaida operation outside the United States, according to newly released defense documents.") (May 15, 2003) (Read More...)
BUSH COUNTRY.org: "CHINA PROVIDES TERRORISM'S NEW WEAPON" by Gordon Thomas (ARTICLE SNIPPET: "The world's Terror Network has been given a new weapon. It can overcome the most stringent of airport and airline security checks. Far more lethal than Semtex, it can be smuggled with virtual impunity from one country to another, one terrorist cell to another. For the 80 terror groups listed on the computers of the CIA, MI5, MI6 and Germany's BND, the weapon once more tips the scales in their favor. It is a new type of plastic explosive that was used by the two young British radical Muslims in last week's suicide bomb attack on the club in Tel Aviv. Three were killed and 50 injured. One of the suicide bombers escaped, leaving behind some explosive. After a week of intensive investigation by chemists at Israel's ultra-secret research centre in the Tel Aviv suburb of Nes Ziona, its lethal qualities and country of background have been discovered. It was at the centre, in one of the most guarded places on earth, the explosive was analyzed behind two-feet thick dun-colored concrete walls and bombproof sliding doors. The conclusion of the scientists sent a collective shock wave through the intelligence community. The Israeli experts concluded that the explosives were manufactured in the laboratories of ZDF, one of China's leading military defense contractors.") (May 20, 2003) (Read More...)
WorldNetDaily.com: "NERVE GAS CHEMICAL 'BOUND FOR NORTH KOREA'" (ARTICLE SNIPPET: "At the request of the U.S., Germany has intercepted a shipment of chemicals which can be used to make chemical weapons, reports the German weekly Der Spiegel. Some 30 tons of sodium cyanide were officially being shipped by a German company to a Singapore warehouse, but Washington believes the material was headed for North Korea. Sodium cyanide, commonly used in the treatment of metals, is also a key ingredient in the manufacture of the deadly nerve gas Tabun (dimethylphosphoramido-cyanidate).") (May 19, 2003) (Read More...)
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