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Homeland Security Officials Selectively Raise Threat Level

By Samantha L. Quigley
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Aug. 1, 2004 – Homeland Security officials have raised the color- coded threat level to orange, or high, for parts of New York City, northern New Jersey, and Washington, D.C.

In an afternoon press conference today Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge cited "new and unusually specific information about where al Qaeda would like to attack," as the reason for the elevation.

The elevation of the threat level specifically targets the financial-service sectors of New York City, northern New Jersey and Washington, D.C. The rest of the country remains at a yellow, or elevated, state of alert.

By raising the threat level for these areas, protective resources can be brought their highest capacity in and around the buildings that are reportedly al Qaeda targets, Ridge said. Those specific targets are the Citigroup buildings and the New York Stock Exchange in New York City, Prudential Financial in northern New Jersey, and the International Monetary Fund and World Bank facilities in Washington.

Ridge said actions to further strengthen security around the buildings are already underway. Additionally, Homeland Security officials are working to get more information regarding any possible targets beyond those named.

"Compared to previous threat reporting, these intelligence reports have provided a level of detail that is very specific," Ridge said. "The quality of this intelligence, based on multiple reporting streams in multiple locations, is rarely seen and is alarming in both the amount and specificity of the information."

He also said that though the threats, which indicate a physical attack over a cyber attack, are specific in location, the time frame is not firm beyond the period leading up to the national elections.

While Homeland Security experts are working with officials from the White House, FBI, CIA and other federal agencies, Ridge said, the governors and mayors of the affected areas also have been brought into the loop.

Security measures are being tailored to each specific building with the help of the executive leadership of the companies that own and operate the buildings.

"Understandably, security measures at each facility will not be uniform in nature, given the scope and scale of the building architecture, access to and from roads, and other variables," Ridge said. "Certainly, we will not broadcast our intentions to the enemy."

Buffer zones to secure building perimeters from unauthorized vehicles, restricting access to underground parking, and tighter screening of personnel entering and exiting the buildings are a few of the measures being taken in light of the new information. Ridge said these measures, seen and unseen, add layers of protection to an already vigorous security effort across the country.

The secretary said the kind of information that led to the elevation of the threat level comes from offensive intelligence and military operations overseas and strong partnerships with world allies.

"The terrorists should know, in this country, this kind of information, while startling, is not stifling," Ridge said. "Al Qaeda wants to intimidate us and prevent us from enjoying our freedoms. And yet, liberty has no greater protector than the collective will of the American people. So, together let us take inspiration from this strength, and use it to our utmost to keep our great nation safe and free."

With many symbolic events and large gatherings -- including the Democratic and Republican national conventions -- this summer, security has been ramped up to unprecedented levels, officials have said.

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