3/8 TC The potential threat of Iraqi-sponsored terrorism has prompted local, state and federal officials in Maryland to heighten security measures around sensitive installations such as military bases, reservoirs and a nuclear power plant.
And while the prospect of any such attack here appeared unlikely, officials were heeding warnings of the Bush administration, which predicted terrorist attacks might "explode" in this country and abroad in response to a U.S. attack on Iraq if that nation does not withdraw from Kuwait by midnight tonight.
Government analysts said Iraq would employ some of the world's most notorious experts, including terrorists linked to the bombing of Pan Am Flight 103 and the hijacking of the Achille Lauro cruise ship.
"We know that terrorism may emerge and may explode worldwide," said FBI Director William B. Sessions.
While past terrorist acts have consisted of bombings, grenade and automatic weapons attacks, Iraq's chemical and biological capabilities have raised added concern.
Main areas of concern were military bases and embassies overseas and the 800-mile Alaskan pipeline that carries 25 percent of U.S. oil.
While admitting a terrorist threat does exist, Brian Jenkins, a private security expert in Los Angeles, said that it is almost "too easy to exaggerate the threat . . . in this country and, in fact, if terrorists are going to carry out symbolic acts of protest or great acts of violence, there is not a lot we can do about it."
Nonetheless, security in Maryland has been beefed up around ** the Calvert Cliffs nuclear power plant in Lusby and at sources of water for the Baltimore area.
Heightened security measures were in place at potentially symbolic targets, such as the Naval Academy, and additional security personnel were assigned to Baltimore- Washington International Airport.
"We are maintaining an open dialogue with federal, state and local law enforcement authorities to help ensure a high level of vigilance and awareness," said a State Police spokesman. At BWI, more guards have been hired and added precautions listed for the public.
A spokeswoman for the state Aviation Administration said travelers have been asked not to leave baggage unattended in or near the facility. She said unattended vehicles near the passenger terminal will be towed more quickly.
Workers at Calvert Cliffs, about 50 miles south of Baltimore, have been urged to be alert and to challenge anyone they don't know in their work area.
A spokesman for the Baltimore Gas and Electric Co. said such precautions were posted at the plant after the federal Nuclear Regulatory Commission last Friday urged plants around the country to review their security in light of the crisis.
He said the security force at Calvert Cliffs is armed and trained in counter-terrorism. Access to the plant on the Chesapeake Bay is tightly controlled and under electronic surveillance.
At the Naval Academy, guards are initiating identification checks and conducting random vehicle searches, a spokeswoman said.
An official at Fort Meade said, "We're taking precautions that I'm not at liberty to say much about."
In Baltimore, a spokesman for the city Department of Public Works said today "we're taking every precaution" to secure and monitor Baltimore's water supplies.