Security tightened in U.S.

Cheney moved

warning issued to travelers

police patrol airports, stadiums

War On Terrorism

The Nation

October 08, 2001|By Gail Gibson and Michael James | Gail Gibson and Michael James,SUN NATIONAL STAFF

The White House moved Vice President Dick Cheney to an undisclosed location yesterday and the State Department issued a strong warning to Americans traveling abroad as officials braced for the possibility of reprisal attacks against the United States.

Top U.S. officials had cautioned before yesterday's strikes in Afghanistan that the risk of new violence against Americans could increase once the United States took military action. Yesterday, authorities responded by tightening security at such public places as football stadiums and airports, and by urging caution.

"The American people need to be alert," White House spokesman Ari Fleischer said. "Government and law enforcement agencies are taking all necessary precautions, but threats do remain. This is a war."

The FBI reported no new threats or reports of retaliatory action. Still, agencies and organizations across the country - on heightened alert since the attacks Sept. 11 at New York's World Trade Center and the Pentagon - took further precautions.

In Maryland, Gov. Parris N. Glendening deployed state troopers to Baltimore-Washington International Airport and PSINet Stadium in Baltimore. Mayor Martin O'Malley met late yesterday with police Commissioner Edward T. Norris to further strengthen emergency response plans already being put into action.

The sharpest warning yesterday came from the State Department, which said that all Americans in Afghanistan "should leave the country." U.S. citizens traveling or working in other countries were urged to monitor local news, maintain contact with the nearest U.S. embassy and limit travel.

The U.S. military action "may result in strong, anti-American sentiment and retaliatory actions against U.S. citizens and interests throughout the world by terrorists and those who are sympathetic to or otherwise support terrorism," the State Department warned.

Nonetheless, the nation's top military official cautioned that Americans will never be completely safe from terrorism.

"You cannot defend at every place, at every time, against every conceivable, imaginable - even unimaginable - terrorist attack," Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld told reporters. "The only way to deal with it is to take the battle to where they are and to root them out and to starve them out."

Glendening's orders

State and local law enforcement officials remain on high alert. In Maryland, where there are federal facilities that could provide high-profile targets for terrorists, Glendening ordered a "heightened state of alert."

After news broke about the U.S. offensive, the governor ordered extra state troopers to stand guard at the Ravens-Titans game and at BWI, where the National Guard was also on patrol.

"Anyone who goes to the airport or who is at the football game today will see a lot of extra state troopers," said Glendening spokesman Michael E. Morrill. "All of our major public buildings are on a heightened state of alert."

At the White House, Fleischer said the decision to move Cheney to another location was a "precautionary measure." The vice president was relocated Sept. 11 when initial reports suggested that the White House might have been a target of the attacks.

"Just as three weeks ago various security steps were taken beyond what is normally done, that was done again today," Fleischer said.

Since the attacks, Cheney has stayed largely out of view and, as a security precaution, has not appeared with President Bush at public events - most notably, Bush's speech to a joint session of Congress on Sept. 20.

A week before the U.S. strikes, Attorney General John Ashcroft issued the administration's strongest warning about the possibility of reprisal violence.

"We think that there is a very serious threat of additional problems now," Ashcroft said in an interview on CBS' Face the Nation. "And, frankly, as the United States responds, that threat may escalate."

Municipal leaders across the nation, including O'Malley, have beefed up security plans since Sept. 11. O'Malley has begun moderating Internet videoconferences with mayors around the country on terrorism safeguards.

After their meeting yesterday, O'Malley and Norris told reporters that local public safety officials were on a heightened, but not the highest, state of alert as a result of events in Afghanistan.

"We have no evidence that there's any specific threat against Baltimore," O'Malley said. He added that Baltimore adopted no new security measures as a result of yesterday's military action and urged residents not to overreact.

"People should not be closing their shutters or putting on gas masks or hoarding medicines," he said.

Among the Baltimore response strategies in place are a "real-time" reporting system in hospital emergency rooms that helps the city's Health Department track any unusual spikes in cold and flu illnesses that might warn of a chemical or biological attack.

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