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'Be Vigilant, Heed Alerts,' Cheney Warns

By Linda D. Kozaryn
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, May 23, 2002 – Be vigilant. Heed security alerts, Vice President Dick Cheney warned the American public Wednesday night on CNN.

It's "just a matter of time" before terrorists strike the United States again. "This is not a normal peacetime kind of situation," he stressed.

Even though U.S. authorities have received no specific threat, Cheney said, the nation must "ratchet up" the security level. "It's not the kind of thing where somebody came in and said, 'Hey, the Brooklyn Bridge is going to get hit tomorrow.' It's never that detailed. It's more a matter of being concerned that there has been some planning activity in the past by the (terrorist) organization."

The more information authorities piece together from detainees in U.S. custody, Cheney said, the more convinced they become that there is an extensive, global terrorist network. "Even after you destroy and disrupt their base of operations in Afghanistan," he said, "they've still got cells all over the world, any one of which is capable of moving forward and carrying out an operation."

Keeping up defenses is only part of the answer to terrorism, he said. The United States must take the offensive to eliminate the terrorists. "We can play defense all day long and do everything we can to protect ourselves from another attack, but in the end, sooner or later somebody's likely to get through."

Cheney denied that the increased threat level is the result of recent criticism that the Bush administration failed to alert the public about threats. He said authorities have not changed their practices in deciding when to notify the public.

"You're damned if you do; damned if you don't," he said. "The fact is, there is a reason to believe that the threat level has increased somewhat. We see more noise in the system, more reporting that leads us to be cautious here."

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