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Consumer Reports


Feds still not finished assessing terror threats

http://www.jewishworldreview.com | (UPI) -- The Bush administration on Thursday said terror threats were under "continuous and ongoing assessment" as the American public remains jittery over concerns that an attack may occur as early as this week.

Rumors were rampant in Washington, New York City and elsewhere that the Department of Homeland Security planned to raise the terror level from orange, or high, to red, the highest level on the agency's five-point color-coded threat scale.

Senior administration officials said no immediate plans existed to raise the national threat level.

The standoff between the United States and Iraq struck a personal cord with a nervous public as federal officials last week recommended that people prepare for a possible assault. Compounding the anxiety was an audiotape believed to be that of Saudi fugitive Osama bin Laden urging suicide attacks against Americans and the Muslim hajj pilgrimage set to end on Friday.

Concerns about the status of the nation's civil defense came as the Pentagon stepped up combat air patrols over Washington in response to the heightened threat of a terrorist attack. The Federal Aviation Administration on Wednesday expanded flight restrictions over the nation's capital to 30 miles from Washington, up from the 15-mile restricted area in place since Sept. 11, 2001.

Visitors and residents to Washington were able to see Humvees equipped with anti-aircraft missiles dispatched to sites around the city. Residents in Washington and other major cities around the country began to stockpile emergency supplies in anticipation of a chemical or biological attack.

On Friday the city's Metropolitan Police Department activated its Joint Operations Command Center, which has a network of 14 closed circuit television cameras that monitor downtown Washington.

So far, said MPD spokesman Tony O'Leary, the department has not received any information that that the threat level would be increased and it has not yet required its officers to work 12-hour shifts or otherwise changed its personnel operations as is usual during emergencies.

Reports from New York City had police in the subway searching riders who entered the system carrying large boxes, bags or backpacks. The New York Times reported the city's police force would change its tactics daily in order to keep potential terrorists confused. Truck and vehicle checkpoints will continue to increase at entry points and throughout Manhattan, the newspaper said. Truck traffic into Manhattan was barred on the Williamsburg Bridge, because it was a difficult spot in which to establish a checkpoint.

Mid-morning, New York City police temporarily shut down a tunnel in the early afternoon after a box fell off a truck.

Mark Giuliano, an FBI terrorism task force supervisor told the Atlanta-Journal Constitution that there was additional concern about attacks since the bin Laden tape was released.

The FBI's Joint Terrorism Task Force in Atlanta also told the newspaper managers of apartment complexes and buildings have called wanting to know about the terrorism alert. The Department of Homeland Security specifically mentioned apartments as one of many potential "soft targets" of terrorists, the newspaper said.

"It's rumor control right now," Mark Giuliano, an FBI terrorism task force supervisor, told the Atlanta-Journal Constitution of concerns that the alert may soon move to the highest level, Code Red.

"But I have no information that it's going to be elevated," he said of the national alert status.

Two days ago, the National Infrastructure Protection Center issued an advisory warning businesses about the possibility of "global hacking activities" as a result of increasing tensions between the United States and Iraq.

"Recent experience has shown that during a time of increased international tension, illegal cyber activity: spamming, web defacements, denial of service attacks, etc., often escalates. This activity can originate within another country, which is party to the tension," the advisory read. "It can be state sponsored or encouraged, or come from domestic organizations or individuals independently."

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