Remarks by Secretary of
Homeland Security Tom Ridge Regarding Recent Threat Reports
Office of the Press Secretary
|Secretary Tom Ridge preparing
to meet with a senior advisors.
August 1, 2004
of Protection for America (PDF, 1 page - 164KB)
Secretary Ridge: Good afternoon, ladies and gentleman. President Bush
has told you, and I have reiterated the promise, that when we have
specific credible information, that we will share it. Now this afternoon,
we do have new and unusually specific information about where al-Qaeda
would like to attack. And as a result, today, the United States Government
is raising the threat level to Code Orange for the financial services
sector in New York City, Northern New Jersey and Washington, DC.
Since September 11th, 2001, leaders of our commercial financial institutions
have demonstrated exceptional leadership in improving its security.
However, in light of new intelligence information, we have made the
decision to raise the threat level for this sector, in these communities,
to bring protective resources to an even higher level.
This will allow us to increase protection in and around those buildings
that require it, and also raise awareness for employees, and residents,
and customers, and visitors. We know, and we know from experience,
that increased physical protection and added vigilance from citizens
can thwart a terrorist attack. And that is our goal.
Now this is the first time we have chosen to use the Homeland Security
Advisory System in such a targeted way. Compared to previous threat
reporting, these intelligence reports have provided a level of detail
that is very specific. The quality of this intelligence, based on multiple
reporting streams in multiple locations, is rarely seen and it is alarming
in both the amount and specificity of the information.
Now while we are providing
you with this immediate information, we will also continue to update
you as the situation unfolds. As of now,
this is what we know: reports indicate that al-Qaeda is targeting several
specific buildings, including the International Monetary Fund and World
Bank in the District of Columbia; Prudential Financial in Northern
New Jersey; and Citigroup buildings and the New York Stock Exchange
in New York. Let me assure you; let me reassure you, actions to further
strengthen security around these buildings are already underway. Additionally,
we’re concerned about targets beyond these and are working to
get more information about them.
Senior leadership across the Department of Homeland Security, in coordination
with the White House, the CIA, the FBI, and other federal agencies,
have been in constant contact with the governors, the mayors, and the
homeland security advisors of the affected locations I just named.
We have talked with the
executive leadership of the companies that own these businesses and
operate these buildings – the people
who know these facilities best. We have told them that, at this time,
there is no information that indicates a specific time for these attacks
beyond the period leading up to our national elections.
Of course, just because
we know where – but not precisely when – that
does not mean that we cannot take pre-emptive action. Just the opposite:
when collection activities provide specific information, we can tailor
security measures to the particular vulnerabilities of those potential
Now understandably, security measures at each facility will not be
uniform in nature, given the scope and the scale of building architecture,
access to and from roads and other variables. Certainly, we will not
broadcast our security intentions to our enemies.
But you may expect to see special buffer zones to secure the perimeter
of the buildings from unauthorized cars and trucks; restrictions to
affected underground parking; security personnel using identification
badges and digital photos to keep track of people entering and exiting
buildings; increased law enforcement presence, and even robust screening
of vehicles, and packages, and deliveries.
These and other security measures, both seen and unseen, create added
layers of protection to an already vigorous security effort around
this country. So let me be clear: While we have raised the threat level
for the financial services sector in the affected communities, the
rest of the nation remains at an elevated, or Code Yellow, risk of
Rest assured, rest assured that the most talented security professionals
and law enforcement professionals around this country are working hard
every single day to protect all regions of the country and all sectors
of our economy.
Now over the course of the
last year, and since the horrific day of 9-11, more permanent protections
are in place than ever before. I suspect
that many of you have seen them. They have become part of our daily
life: additional airport security, including screenings, and air marshals,
and hardened cockpit doors. You've seen more visible law enforcement
officers on trains, and subways, and other transportation systems.
You've seen increased inspections at our nation’s ports or at
our border crossings.
And this summer, given the volume of symbolic events and large gatherings,
we have ramped up protective measures more than ever before. Let me
paint a partial picture: thousands of radiological pagers have been
given to law enforcement around the country, and more are on their
way. At work are more HAZMAT technicians, undercover agents, and emergency
response teams, and more K-9 units capable of detecting explosives
and weapons of mass destruction. Advanced air monitoring technologies
that can check for biological pathogens are operating in key locations.
Now, along with smart security professionals, these technologies helped
bring the Democratic National Convention to a safe conclusion. The
state-of-the-art equipment like this is now being installed to protect
the Republican National Convention in New York later this year. This
equipment and added personnel will bolster security measures already
being put in place right at Madison Square Garden and throughout the
transportation systems in New York City.
These added security measures
mean that from curb to the cockpit, at our ports of entry and borders
in between; in our public places
and cyberspace; on air, and land, and sea…we are better protected
than we ever have been before.
We bring you this information today, and, again, will continue to
update you if new specific information becomes available. Because with
this kind of information comes action.
There is much we can each do to remain vigilant, to be on watch, to
be aware of unusual patterns or vehicles, and to report suspicious
activities. And so this afternoon, I ask our citizens for their watchful
eyes as we continue to monitor this situation.
I certainly realize that this is sobering news, not just about the
intent of our enemies, but of their specific plans and a glimpse into
But we must understand that
the kind of information available to us today is the result of the
President’s leadership in the war
against terror. The reports that have led to this alert are the result
of offensive intelligence and military operations overseas, as well
as strong partnerships with our allies around the world, such as Pakistan.
Such operations and partnerships give us insight into the enemy so
we can better target our defensive measures here and away from home
The terrorists should know,
in this country, this kind of information, while startling, is not
stifling. It will not weaken the American spirit,
it will not dampen our resolve, for our resolve is indivisible – and
unyielding – which is a weapon infinitely stronger than the plots
and the plans of those who wish to do us harm.
Al-Qaeda wants to intimidate us and prevent us from enjoying our lives
and exercising our freedoms. And yet, liberty has no greater protector
than the collective will of the American people. So, together let us
take inspiration from this strength, and use it to our utmost to keep
our great nation safe and free.
Thank you very much.
Question: Mr. Secretary, would you say it's fair to say that what
has been uncovered here is a specific plot?
Secretary Ridge: I think it's fair to say that we have more specific
information about potential targets that I think you can conclude maybe
the subject of a particular plot. Again, what is extraordinary about
these particular sites is the considerable detail and quality of information
regarding those sites.
So again, we have no specific information that says an attack is eminent,
but given the specificity and the quality of information around these
sites, obviously one would conclude, if you were considering a potential
attack, these might be among the targets.
Question: Mr. Secretary, can you say how the apprehension of the one
with the South African passport in Texas factored into this? Was she
a catalyst behind the threat report that you're talking about?
Secretary Ridge: Well first of all, that investigation is still on-going.
The FBI's doing a great job following it, but to date, based on what
we know in that investigation, there's no connection between that individual
that was apprehended at the border to the information in the targeting
that I've discussed with you this afternoon.
Question: Mr. Secretary, does the intelligence indicate basically
physical threats against these institutions or an electronic attack
to screw up or fuzz bust, or whatever you want say, electronic commerce
among the financial sector?
Secretary Ridge: I think when we look at infrastructure protection
there are three concerns that we would have: the physical destruction,
the cyber involvement, or perhaps those inside might cause damage or
The analytical piece that's associated with this, which suggests that
based on what we've gleamed so far, the preferred method of attack,
or what's being suggested in the reporting, is car and truck bombs;
the physical destruction or attempted physical destruction or attempted
physical destruction of these facilities.
Question: Do any of these security measures portend a disruption inadvertent
of the financial markets or any financial impact? Will they be transparent
to traders and those that use the markets?
Secretary Ridge: I think, I'm not quite sure I understand the question,
let me try to answer it this way. These are significant institutions
that relate to our leadership role in the international economy, but
to a certain extent it's really not, even the destruction of a single
building, is not going to undermine the greatest and strongest economy
in the world. So to a certain extent they're almost iconic.
They're visible targets perhaps known around the rest of the world,
but the fact of the matter is, as I've said before, the financial services
industries, since 9-11 has built in systems of protection and protection
of the systems that help regulate and help control the equity markets,
the flow of currency, and around the entire world.
Question: Can you talk a little bit more about the nature of the intelligence?
You said specific, credible, and multiple sources. Is it coming from
interrogations, the internet, perceptions?
Secretary Ridge: I will tell you that there are, and just to stay
consistent with what I said before, multiple locations, multiple sources
and you can read into that that because of, again, I think it's very
important to point out, most of those sources are related to the extraordinary
offensive effort we've taken overseas.
Playing strong offensive overseas in many different ways: the military;
the CIA; the partnerships, our global partners, gives us the capability
to prepare better defense back home.
Question: Were the recent arrests in Pakistan a contributing, a key
contributing factor to the information flows you're getting now?
Secretary Ridge: Well we will not comment on the specific sources,
but let me just go back again and say the coalition that we have built,
and the alliances we have built have been instrumental and very much
a part in our intelligence gathering operations.
Question: Mr. Secretary, what are you advising the people who work
at these business to do? Tomorrow's a work day; should they go to work,
should they stay away?
Secretary Ridge: We have talked to the security professionals at those
buildings and the leadership, and I think the employees most appropriately
would get guidance from their employer.
I would like to think, as sobering and as difficult as this news is,
and the kind of anxiety that it would generate, that the folks that
work at those particular sites, or stroll through the neighborhood
through those streets, would have the resolve and maybe a little bit
of defiance to say, well, we know what you know and we're going to
about leading our lives so we're not going to let threats or this kind
of information turn us into fortress America. We're going to keep on
Question: Secretary Ridge, related to the targets in New York City,
do have any information that would connect this plot to pre-election
threats you've talked about or more specifically the upcoming Republican
convention in New York City?
Secretary Ridge: Well the consistent reporting stream, and I think
it was back on July 8th when we had a press conference here where we
talked about several sources that generally had discussed a possibility
of attacking us during - to try to undermine our democratic process,
and I think one could reasonably infer that this could be part of that
effort, but I don't think you necessarily should put a timeframe around
when these targets, if they were ultimately the subject of an attack,
would be attacked.
I mean given the specificity of the information, you've got to appreciate
that and consider that in light of the broader general threat to try
to disrupt the democratic process, but I don't think you could conclude
that it's framed in that fashion, and I think I'll let, on background,
some of the intelligence folks explain it in greater detail.
Question: Do you have any reason to think other financial centers
like Chicago, San Francisco, or Los Angeles are at higher risk now
than they were?
Secretary Ridge: At this juncture the answer is no, but I also have
to reiterate the fact that there are multiple sources and we're doing
everything we can to analyze the information, and if we would have
the same kind and quality of information, as I've told over 200 people
in a conference call that I had just before we came here, a lot of
the Homeland Security advisors and those from around the country, we
would share it with them in the same fashion.
Question: Mr. Secretary, I thought that New York was already on an
Orange alert level. So are they now, the financial institutions, going
to Red, the highest?
Secretary Ridge: I think
you're right in saying that, historically, New York has maintained,
sustains a general higher level of alert in
vigilance than most cities. I think if you ask Commissioner Kelly and
Mayor Bloomberg they'd say, "We have the highest level of vigilance,
and the highest level of awareness, and the highest level of security."
But on top of that, they'll be working particularly with the companies
that own these specific locations, reviewing the vulnerabilities, taking
a look at what additional protective measures they should put, or could
put in place, given the reporting. So I don't think they're necessarily
going to take - you'll have to ask Commissioner Kelly, I don't think
he's necessarily going to take the city up.
The level of security New York City is not only higher, they call
they're level now Orange, but remember, for the past couple of months,
an administration-wide effort has taken place, and a lot of those initiatives
are in addition to what New York puts in place permanently.
On top of that, you can add a third layer, and that's the layer of
security that we have brought into play because of the Republican convention,
the same level of security; more people, more technology associated
with the convention.
So you've got a higher base line for New York, initiatives that we've
undertaken with them during the past several months and on top of that,
independent of the first, even more security, people, and technology
because the convention's going to be there. So New York City is a very
high level of security right now.
Question: This is a new approach for Homeland Security to sort of
target particular cities and sectors and say this is the areas we're
raising to Orange, not the entire country.
Is this sort of surgical approach, something you expect to do more
of in the future considering the financial cost to the rest of the
Secretary Ridge: Well we have announced a change in the threat level
about a half a dozen times, and I think we've tried to explain to the
public that one, we know it raises the level of anxiety. We also know
that it imposes certain costs on communities because much of the response
is labor intensive. We also said all along that if we had the opportunity
based on specific and credible information we could apply it surgically.
And here we have, according to the reporting we have available now,
a fairly confined area and a fairly specific, not exclusively, but
a fairly specific sector of the economy. I mean these weren't the only
targets, but again, a fairly specific sector of the economy. So I think
it demonstrates, if nothing else, the flexibility and appropriate application
of focus and resources where we need it most and when we need it, and
Question: Mr. Secretary, so we're talking about a specific geographical
area and not, when you say financial services sector you mean a specific
geographical area of New York, correct?
Secretary Ridge: Well when we take a look at the Northern New Jersey,
New York City, and Washington, D.C., you can see what the institutions
represent from the list I gave you, both domestic and international
major institutions. There are other - I think it's reasonable to infer
from that that for the time being targeting, targets of economic opportunity
or iconic economic targets are at the heart their interests, and therefore,
until we get more information, because we're still rolling out more
information, still getting more information, still analyzing more information,
we just thought confined area, financial sector seems to be the primary
focus. Let's raise it to Orange, review vulnerabilities, and assess
protective measures, even at other financial institutions that may
not be on the list just as a precautionary measure. It seems to indicate
a clear intent and until we can conclude otherwise we think it's best
to move in that direction.
Thank you very much.