U.S. prepares to repel threatened terrorist attacks BWI, Calvert Cliffs, other sites guarded

January 16, 1991|By Ginger Thompson Rafael Alvarez, Susan Schoenberger, Diane Winston and William F. Zorzi 3rd of The Sun's metropolitan staff contributed to this article.

Thomas Puwalski, a sergeant in the Army serving at Fort Meade, doesn't worry about dying in combat -- even with the looming threat of war in the Persian Gulf. After all, he plays the clarinet in the Army Field Band.

But since the beginning of the Iraqi crisis, the thought of getting killed while on duty nags at him every time he puts on his uniform.

Sergeant Puwalski says the band's ability to attract large crowds makes it one of the most obvious targets for terrorism.

"If I were a terrorist, I'd certainly think we were an ideal target," he said. "You have us playing this patriotic music, large crowds and lots of media. It's a fantastic opportunity for anyone who wants to get the government's attention."

To prevent such attacks, agencies across Maryland are tightening security -- with measures as varied as increased state police presence at Baltimore-Washington International Airport, more armed guards at the Baltimore Gas and Electric Co.'s Calvert Cliffs nuclear power plant, and keeping doors locked at synagogues.

"We've notified all our supervisors to beware of anything that doesn't look or feel right," said James Kapplin, a spokesman for Baltimore's Department of Public Works. "With the type of threats being made by the Iraqis, we would be completely irresponsible if we went along with business as usual."

Public works officials would not give details of their security plans, but said they were confident that their security measures are adequate to protect all public buildings, including City Hall, and Baltimore's fleet of vehicles. Mr. Kapplin said one of the agency's prime concerns is protecting the city's water supply. But, he added, the chances of anyone's poisoning Baltimore's drinking water are slim because it would require weeks of dumping hazardous chemicals into a reservoir.

"You can't just drop a pill or one vial of chemicals into a reservoir and poison thousands of people," he said. "Besides, all the water goes through several filtration systems."

But the Rev. Brett P. Morgan, pastor of Roland Park Presbyterian Church, doesn't want to take any chances.

"I can't imagine that if war breaks out that events will just be limited to [areas] outside of the U.S.," he said. "On the radio I heard that they were taking precautions to protect water supplies, so the other night as I was doing the dishes, I asked my wife to go out and buy a couple gallons of water."

Over a public address system at BWI, officials periodically warned passengers not to leave their luggage unattended.

But several passengers preparing to board the only international flight last night -- TWA to London -- said their concerns were minimal.

"I think more of our friends and co-workers and family have voiced a lot of concern," said Robert Ruffner of Alexandria, Va., who was on his way to England for a vacation. "No one likes to take unnecessary risks, but I don't feel this is an unnecessary risk."

His wife, Margaret, added: "It's in the hands of God."

Airport spokeswoman Carol Riley said that at the direction of the Federal Aviation Administration dozens of state police troopers were assigned to patrol the terminals. And if tension in the Persian Gulf erupts into war, airport officials said they may begin restricting automobile access to the airport and passenger movement inside the terminals.

An atmosphere of heightened security also hung over the Naval Academy, where Marine guards turned away visitors without proper identification from the North Severn Naval Station and directed civilians to a single gate at the Naval Academy, which normally is open to visitors.

Armed guards control access to the Calvert Cliffs nuclear power plant, and officials said the plant's security force was specially trained in anti-terrorist tactics.

"Nuclear plants across the country are obvious targets for terrorism, and so security is always tight," said Art Slusark, a BG&E spokesman.

Leaders in the Jewish community said they are also accustomed to being targets of terrorism and one Jewish school had already received a threatening phone call.

"There was a call made to one of the schools [on Monday] . . . and it was dealt with," said Arthur Abramson, head of the Baltimore Jewish Council, declining to say which school. "It was interpreted as a threat, but we found it was without any foundation at all.

"We are making sure that normal security programs at all Jewish institutions are being followed," he added. "We have made sure the community is alert to the threat, but unfortunately we always have to be on alert."

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