|For Immediate Release
March 17, 2003
Statement by Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge
The Department of Homeland Security in consultation with the Homeland
Security Council, has made the decision to raise the national
threat level from an Elevated to High risk of terrorist attack
or Level Orange. The Intelligence Community believes that terrorists
will attempt multiple attacks against U.S.and Coalition targets
worldwide in the event of a U.S led military campaign against
Saddam Hussein. A large volume of reporting across a range of
sources, some of which are highly reliable, indicates that Al-Qaida
probably would attempt to launch terrorist attacks against U.S.interests
claiming they were defending Muslims or the Iraqi people rather
than Saddam Husseins regime.
While the March 1 arrest of senior Al Qaida operative, Khalid
Shaykh Muhammad (KSM) has put the Al-Qaida senior leadership on
the defensive and will be debilitating in the long term -- the
Intelligence Community believes that KSMs capture will not necessarily
affect operations that are ready or nearly ready for execution.
There are many recent indications that Al-Qaidas planning includes
the use of chemical, biological, and/or radiological materials.
Intelligence reporting also indicates that while Al-Qaida and
those sympathetic to their cause are a principal threat, Iraqi
state agents, Iraqi surrogate groups, other regional extremist
organizations, and ad hoc groups or disgruntled individuals not
connected to existing organizations or state agencies, may use
this time period to conduct terrorist attacks against the U.S.,
or our interests abroad.
In recent months, there have been reports of suspicious activity
in and around military facilities, ports, waterways, general infrastructure
(bridges, dams, power generating facilities), and targets that
are considered symbolic to U.S.power and influence. The discovery
of ricin production in Londonraises the concern of the Intelligence
Community that extremists are planning to follow through on longstanding
threats of poison plots against U.S, British and Israeli interests
and possibly other targets in Europe.
The Department of Homeland Security, in conjunction with numerous
departments of the federal government has begun implementing increased
protective measures under a comprehensive national plan to protect
the Homeland: Operation Liberty Shield.
Operation Liberty Shield will increase security
at our borders, strengthen transportation sector protections,
enhance security at our critical infrastructure, increase public
health preparedness and make sure all federal response assets
can be deployed quickly.
Tonight, I have spoken to the nations Governors and asked them
to deploy the National Guard or additional police forces to improve
security at critical locations throughout their states. Other
state, local and private sector leaders are also being contacted
to engage their support to increase the nations security.
These heightened security measures will help deter terrorism and
increase protection of America and Americans. In the meantime,
as on the other occasions when the national threat level has been
increased, we encourage members of the public to continue their
daily work, family and leisure activities with a heightened awareness.
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