Security tighter around HUD secretary ACLU in Baltimore received tip on threat

September 16, 1997|By Dennis O'Brien | Dennis O'Brien,SUN STAFF Sun staff writer Carl M. Cannon contributed to this article.

Authorities have tightened security around U.S. Housing and Urban Development Secretary Andrew M. Cuomo and his Washington offices after an anonymous caller reported to the American Civil Liberties Union in Baltimore that a contract had been taken out on Cuomo's life.

The caller reported Wednesday that he had heard a contract had been taken out on Cuomo's life and that someone had planted a bomb in a courthouse in Baltimore, said Suzanne Smith, a legal assistant at the ACLU and an office spokeswoman.

Smith said the caller refused to give his name.

"He just said, 'I thought you could do something about it' and hung up," Smith said.

U.S. Marshal George McKinney in Baltimore said that the ACLU reported the bomb threat Wednesday afternoon and that security personnel at the federal courthouse were instructed to be alert for anything suspicious.

The building was not evacuated, he said.

"We didn't have a real bomb threat is what it boiled down to," McKinney said.

Smith said yesterday that the anonymous caller never actually specificed the federal courthouse in Baltimore as the target of the bomb threat or that Cuomo was the target of the death threat.

"He just said, 'I was in Richmond and somebody said there's a contract out on Cuomo and there's a plot to blow up the courthouse in Baltimore. We sort of ascertained that it was the federal courthouse and everyone assumed it meant Andrew Cuomo," Smith said.

The U.S. Marshals Service made the same assumption, according to an internal memo by the Inspector General's office of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.

"The U.S. Marshal Service believes the CUOMO referred to by the caller to the ACLU must be Andrew Cuomo " according to a memo obtained by The Sun.

The memo attributed the threats to support given by Cuomo and by the ACLU to Moving to Opportunity, a program designed to use federal rental subsidies to relocate poor inner-city families in Baltimore to more prosperous middle-class neighborhoods in Baltimore County.

The program, which is being pushed by HUD and the ACLU, has triggered a court challenge as well as anger directed at the agencies.

The memo, sent to security personnel at HUD headquarters in Washington, says that security there, where Cuomo keeps his office, has been heightened.

The memo says vehicles will not be permitted into headquarters parking lots without HUD-issued permits, that the loading dock will be closely monitored and that visitors will be checked and "their business stated and verified" before they are admitted.

Pub Date: 9/16/97

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