Terrorist Threat Level Nationwide Raised To "High"
Update: Homeland Security Director Asks Governors To Deploy Nat'l Guard or Add'l Police Forces To Improve Security At Critical Locations"; We Post Statement
(March 17, 2003) -- The nation's terrorist threat level has been raised to "High"...and the feds are asking the states for assistance...including asking Governors to deploy the National Guard or additional police forces to improve security at critical locations throughout their states. Other state, local and private sector leaders are also being contacted to engage their support to increase the nation's security.
In a statement issued tonight, Director of the Dept. of Homeland Security Tom Ridge stated:
The Department of Homeland Security in consultation with the Homeland Security Council, has made the decision to raise the national threat level from an Elevated to High risk of terrorist attack or Level Orange. The Intelligence Community believes that terrorists will attempt multiple attacks against U.S. and Coalition targets worldwide in the event of a U.S - led military campaign against Saddam Hussein. A large volume of reporting across a range of sources, some of which are highly reliable, indicates that Al-Qaida probably would attempt to launch terrorist attacks against U.S. interests claiming they were defending Muslims or the "Iraqi people" rather than Saddam Hussein's regime.
While the March 1 arrest of senior Al Qaida operative, Khalid Shaykh Muhammad (KSM) has put the Al-Qaida senior leadership on the defensive - and will be debilitating in the long term -- the Intelligence Community believes that KSM’s capture will not necessarily affect operations that are ready or nearly ready for execution. There are many recent indications that Al-Qaida's planning includes the use of chemical, biological, and/or radiological materials.
Intelligence reporting also indicates that while Al-Qaida and those sympathetic to their cause are a principal threat, Iraqi state agents, Iraqi surrogate groups, other regional extremist organizations, and ad hoc groups or disgruntled individuals not connected to existing organizations or state agencies, may use this time period to conduct terrorist attacks against the U.S., or our interests abroad.
In recent months, there have been reports of suspicious activity in and around military facilities, ports, waterways, general infrastructure (bridges, dams, power generating facilities), and targets that are considered symbolic to U.S. power and influence. The discovery of ricin production in London raises the concern of the Intelligence Community that extremists are planning to follow through on longstanding threats of poison plots against U.S, British and Israeli interests - and possibly other targets in Europe.
The Department of Homeland Security, in conjunction with numerous departments of the federal government has begun implementing increased protective measures under a comprehensive national plan to protect the Homeland: "Operation Liberty Shield."
Operation Liberty Shield will increase security at our borders, strengthen transportation sector protections, enhance security at our critical infrastructure, increase public health preparedness and make sure all federal response assets can be deployed quickly.
Tonight, I have spoken to the nation's Governors and asked them to deploy the National Guard or additional police forces to improve security at critical locations throughout their states. Other state, local and private sector leaders are also being contacted to engage their support to increase the nation's security.
These heightened security measures will help deter terrorism and increase protection of America and Americans. In the meantime, as on the other occasions when the national threat level has been increased, we encourage members of the public to continue their daily work, family and leisure activities with a heightened awareness.
The Homeland Security Advisory System (HSAS) uses five color codes to disseminate information regarding the risk of terrorist attacks to all levels of government and the American people. It defines the "High" threat condition (and lower conditions) as follows:
High Condition -- Orange
High risk of terrorist attacks. In addition to the previously outlined Protective Measures [described below], the following may be applied: Coordinating necessary security efforts with armed forces or law enforcement agencies; Taking additional precaution at public events; Preparing to work at an alternate site or with a dispersed workforce; and Restricting access to essential personnel only.
Protective measures for the lesser threat levels (Elevated and below) include the following measures that may be applied:
[Elevated] Increasing surveillance of critical locations; Coordinating emergency plans with nearby jurisdictions; Assessing further refinement of Protective Measures within the context of the current threat information; and Implementing, as appropriate, contingency and emergency response plans.
[Guarded] Checking communications with designated emergency response or command locations; Reviewing and updating emergency response procedures; and
Providing the public with necessary information.
[Low] Refining and exercising preplanned Protective Measures Ensuring personnel receive training on HSAS, departmental, or agency-specific Protective Measures; and Regularly assessing facilities for vulnerabilities and taking measures to reduce them.
The action followed the White House address (transcript posted on LBReport.com) by President George W. Bush which warned that military action against Iraq could commence within 48 hours if Saddam Hussein and his sons do not leave.
During his address, President Bush said:
Our government is on heightened watch against these dangers. Just as we are preparing to ensure victory in Iraq, we are taking further actions to protect our homeland. In recent days, American authorities have expelled from the country certain individuals with ties to Iraqi intelligence services. Among other measures, I have directed additional security of our airports, and increased Coast Guard patrols of major seaports. The Department of Homeland Security is working closely with the nation's governors to increase armed security at critical facilities across America.
Should enemies strike our country, they would be attempting to shift our attention with panic and weaken our morale with fear. In this, they would fail. No act of theirs can alter the course or shake the resolve of this country. We are a peaceful people -- yet we're not a fragile people, and we will not be intimidated by thugs and killers. If our enemies dare to strike us, they and all who have aided them, will face fearful consequences.