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Ridge Lowers Threat Level, But Nation Remains On Guard

By Gerry J. Gilmore
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Jan. 9, 2004 – Although the nation's terrorist threat indicator level was lowered from Code Orange to Yellow, America remains on guard, Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge said here today.

"The (terrorist) threat conditions that we've been following have diminished," Ridge noted to reporters at a press briefing.

Code Orange, which was implemented Dec. 21, indicates a high risk of a terrorist incident, and is the second-most-severe threat index of a five level, color-coded scale.

"We have not let our guard down," Ridge asserted, pointing out there's still an elevated risk of a terrorist attack on the United States.

"We will maintain particular vigilance around some critical resources and locales" across the country, to include airports, Ridge said. Intelligence data, he noted, says al Qaeda exhibits "continued interest" in using commercial airplanes as weapons.

Consequently, officials for now want to maintain the high security at the nation's airports that was provided during the orange alert, Ridge explained.

He noted that more coordination is needed between the United States and countries like France, Great Britain, Spain and Mexico "to establish a better protocol to deal with the kind of threat information that led" to recent international flight delays or cancellations due to terrorist concerns.

"There's a growing awareness in the international aviation community," Ridge continued, "that we need to establish standards by which we can deal with this kind of threat information, and we will."

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