Security tightened at BWI, Army bases, U.S. agencies Delays at Fort Meade, airport linked to alert for possible terrorists

Aftermath Of Attack

August 22, 1998|By Cheryl Lu-Lien Tan | Cheryl Lu-Lien Tan,SUN STAFF Sun staff writers Dan Thanh Dang, Mike James, Lisa Respers and Erin Texeira contributed to this article.

Military bases in Maryland and public facilities such as the Baltimore-Washington International Airport were on heightened alert against terrorists yesterday after the U.S. missile attacks in Sudan and Afghanistan Thursday.

Added security measures included increased patrols, road closures or spot checks of vehicles at Fort Meade and Aberdeen Proving Ground.

Federal regulators called for BWI and other major airports to beef up their security patrols with uniformed police officers and teams with dogs trained to detect explosives.

The heightened security at BWI caused some traffic tie-ups and other delays. Airport officials urged fliers to arrive earlier because of the security checks.

"Everyone needs to be very vigilant," said Marilyn Corbett, a spokeswoman for the Maryland Aviation Administration. She suggested that travelers may want to "leave for the airport a little earlier than normal, leave plenty of time to park their cars, get to the terminal and get to the gate."

Don McClow, a spokesman for Fort Meade, in western Anne Arundel County, said no specific threats have been directed against military bases in the area. "But military commanders have been directed to take prudent security measures."

The Defense Department ordered security tightened Thursday evening, he said, and base officials began shutting eight of 16 access roads overnight.

There were backups at Fort Meade's two main entrances off Route 175 and Route 32 during the morning rush hour as base employees found their regular gates closed, McClow said. Late yesterday afternoon, security checkpoints slowed traffic heading out of the two main gates, but people did not seem to mind.

Kim Jackson, an Odenton resident, was stopped at the main entrance at Route 32 and Mapes Road as she was about to take a shortcut home from work by cutting across the base. "With all the things going on, and because I live so close to the base, most definitely I feel safer that they're out here," she said of the added security.

Airports and federal agencies across the nation were pushed to implement stringent measures after the Navy launched surprise missile attacks on a Sudanese chemical plant and a suspected terrorist training camp in Afghanistan. The cruise missile attacks were aimed at targets linked to Osama bin Laden, the wealthy Saudi expatriate who is believed to have masterminded the Aug. 7 bombings at the U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania.

Fearing revenge, military police at Aberdeen Proving Ground spot-checked vehicles entering the base yesterday morning, said John Yaquiant, a public affairs specialist.

At the Edgewood section of the base, the main gate remained open to the public last night allowing motorists to pass through unchecked.

No security guards were at the entrance to the Aberdeen post either, but several post police officers could be seen in marked cars patrolling the grounds.

Officials at federal agencies -- including the intelligence-gathering National Security Agency -- would not discuss many details about the added protective measures.

"The Army as a matter of policy doesn't discuss how we increase our security measures," said Yaquiant. "We didn't during Desert Shield and Desert Storm, and we won't now. Once you identify a security measure, it's negated."

Cmdr. Mike Brady, a spokesman for U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis, said the institution "heightened its security awareness" but he wouldn't say what that meant. The academy remains open to visitors and tourists, he said, adding: "The typical visitor won't notice any difference."

BWI officials, who also would not release details, met yesterday afternoon with about 50 representatives of the Federal Aviation Administration, the airlines and MTA's airport police detachment.

Corbett, the spokeswoman for the state aviation agency, said additional security measures took effect immediately.

Jim Peters, spokesman for the FAA's Eastern Region office, under which BWI falls, said the agency has required major airports to have more uniformed police and FAA-certified K-9 explosives detection teams on patrol.

Trace explosives detector units also are being added to security checkpoints, he said, and passengers are being asked to look out for suspicious packages or unattended bags.

Capt. William Downing, commander of the Maryland Transportation Authority police detachment at BWI, said his staff has enforced a "heightened state of security" at the airport for about three years now, prompted by the Oklahoma City and World Trade Center bombings.

"We pay strict attention to unattended vehicles and people who look like they don't belong here in the airport," Downing said.

"We cover more [terrorist crime training] in the internal training program than we did than before."

Fort Meade closed the eight entrances at about 6 p.m. Thursday and patrols were added. Military police were stationed at two main entrances to screen all vehicles entering the base, said Lt. Col. Patrick L. Colvert, Fort Meade's provost marshal.

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