From Annapolis to Aberdeen, authorities tighten security against terrorist threat WAR IN THE GULF

January 18, 1991|By Ginger Thompson and Peter Jensen M. Dion Thompson, Sheridan Lyons and Noam Neusner of The Sun's metropolitan staff and Samuel Goldreich and Peter Hermann of the Anne Arundel County Sun contributed to this article.

State Sen. Arthur Dorman, D-Prince George's, ran into the Senate Office Building, dropped his briefcase at the guard desk in the lobby and then ran out, telling the guard he was late for a meeting.

Normally, his hurried pace would not have attracted much attention. But with war raging in the Middle East and continued threats of terrorism by Iraqi President Saddam Hussein, anything out of the ordinary was being scrutinized yesterday, in Annapolis and throughout the state.

The guard at the desk did not recognize Senator Dorman. She thought a bomb might be locked inside the briefcase. Within minutes, the building was evacuated and state police had been summoned.

"The security people did an excellent job," said Mr. Dorman later, after police had searched his briefcase. "They were told I was a 40-year-old male who left a briefcase."

Senate Majority Leader Clarence W. Blount, D-Baltimore, responded: "It's better to be safe than sorry."

That certainly seemed to be the motto for law enforcement agencies in Baltimore yesterday as they responded to bomb threats at a Jewish school, a hospital and a large hardware store in Northwest Baltimore. The threats proved empty, but law enforcement officers said they will respond to anything suspicious.

Although security had been increased several days ago at airports, private companies, military installations and public buildings, Wednesday night's attack on Baghdad made the threat of terrorism even more pressing.

At a news conference in Annapolis, Gov. William Donald Schaefer warned that "every citizen should be vigilant" and report suspicious behavior to police in order to prevent acts of terrorism and sabotage while the country is at war.

"If you notice any suspicious activities or any suspicious persons, pick up the phone and call 911," Governor Schaefer told reporters at an afternoon news conference. "We need people to take this as a very serious matter."

Flanked by Bishop L. Robinson, secretary of the state Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services, and Maj. Gen. James F. Fretterd, adjutant general of the Maryland National Guard, Mr. Schaefer told reporters that he had lectured Cabinet members yesterday on the need for beefed-up security.

General Fretterd said National Guard units have increased the security at their installations as a precaution.

"We are prepared. Our resources are mobilized and ready," the governor said.

Cabbie Edward Page, an Associated Cabs independent driver, certainly noticed the heightened security when he picked up a passenger at Westinghouse Electric's giant plant near the Baltimore-Washington International Airport.

As Mr. Page began to emerge from his cab to put the customer's luggage in the trunk, one of three state troopers at the main entrance barred him from getting out. Instead, he had to open the trunk from inside and let the customer handle his own bags.

At BWI, increased security was putting a crimp into the tips of the skycaps, who are only allowed to help passengers carry luggage into the terminal.

"Most people take the bags inside themselves," said Derrick Kane, a BWI skycap supervisor, who added that normally tips can raise their salary to as much as $10 an hour. "But we have to do what we have to do."

Security also was increased at the federal and city courthouses in Baltimore. Federal Marshal Scott A. Sewell said extra precautions inside and outside the federal courthouse were planned two days ago in a meeting that included local officials, the FBI and the Federal Protective Police.

At the city courthouse, the sheriff's chief of security, Col. Leonard V. Santivasci, said everyone had been told to take extra precautions. Shopping bags and packages were not allowed inside, Colonel Santivasci said, and deputies were added at certain locations.

"I don't know if there's anything the public can do, but law enforcement is working together to gather intelligence and respond to any suspicious activity," said David Troy, head of the Washington district of the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms. "It's not foolproof . . . it's quite likely that if someone sets their mind to doing something, they're going to do it. If we're lucky, we'll catch them."

Security precautions were responsible for major traffic jams at four entrances at the sprawling Aberdeen Proving Ground in Harford County -- where 5 percent of the nation's stockpile of chemical weapons is stored.

A proving ground spokesman, John G. Yaquiant, said that two of the six gates at the facility were closed Wednesday morning: An armored vehicle was posted at the gate at the Edgewood Arsenal section of the post and the gate at Aberdeen Boulevard was locked.

And visitors to Fort Meade in Anne Arundel County were stopped at the main entrance and questioned, but it was unclear whether it is because of outbreak of fighting in the gulf. Spokesman Don McClow said the base had planned for some time to conduct security training.

Armed guards were stationed at many entrances to the Fort Meade, home not only to Army troops but to the National Security Agency and 902nd Military Intelligence Group, and people entering the main gates were stopped and questioned about where on the base they were headed and why they were visiting.

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