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22 July 2005

United States Coordinates with United Kingdom on Counterterrorism

FBI, others working closely with British authorities, White House says

By Merle D. Kellerhals, Jr.
Washington File Staff Writer

Washington -- U.S. federal agents are working with British authorities as they deal with a continuing terrorist threat to London rail and bus passengers, a White House spokesman said July 22.

"The president ... received a couple of updates this morning: one earlier this morning and then one toward the end of his usual briefing this morning about the latest developments in London and the situation there," presidential spokesman Scott McClellan said.

On July 21, explosions struck the London subway system and a red double-decker bus at midday, but only one person was injured in what was characterized as a failed attempt to carry out a series of suicide bombings like those that occurred in London on July 7.  In that attack, over 50 people were killed, including four terrorists, and nearly 700 were wounded, according to British authorities.

And on July 22, a man was shot by British police during a chase into one of the London subway stations, related to the attempted attacks the day before, authorities told the news media.

FBI officials and others "are working in close coordination with British authorities," McClellan said.

Francis Townsend, the president's homeland security adviser, has been in close contact with her counterpart in London, he said, and she has also kept the president informed of events in London.

"We continue to assist in any way that we can . . .. U.S. authorities have been providing assistance since the attacks of two weeks ago, and we continue to offer whatever help we can as they move forward on investigating these incidents," he said.

During a trip to Atlanta, Bush said "the people of Great Britain must understand how strongly America stands with them during these trying times.  I'm confident, like our country, the citizens of that country will not be intimidated by thugs and assassins."

"We're not going to let anybody frighten us from our great love of freedom," the president said.

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, speaking in Israel July 21, expressed confidence that Londoners would stand strong in the face of terrorism.

"The British people have impressed everyone with their strength and resolve and I am certain they will continue to do the same," she said.

At the State Department daily briefing July 21, deputy spokesman Adam Ereli said his reaction to hearing the news of the bombings was “shock, outrage, horror at yet another senseless and evil act.”  Americans “stand with our British friends and allies in response to this act.  We will stand with them and work with them in dealing with this tragedy as we have in past tragedies," he said.

At the same time, U.S. homeland security officials said they have been reviewing terrorist threat levels almost daily since the July 7 terrorist bombing attacks in central London.

"Certainly, as we look at the threat level, we will factor in the information and intelligence we're receiving from the U.K., as well as information we're getting from other sources, as we consider what the right protective measures are," said Brian Besanceney, homeland security assistant secretary for public affairs, July 22.

The United States raised its threat alert level to orange, or "high" risk, on July 7 for all U.S. mass transit systems in direct response to the London suicide bombings.  The rest of the United States remains at yellow, or "elevated" risk.

McClellan said July 21 "there is no plan at this time to change the alert level for our mass transit systems."

As a result of the threat-level changes and continuing threats in London, local U.S. law enforcement and transit police have been conducting increased patrols of subway, commuter rail and bus systems; heightened inspection and surveillance around transit facilities; and increased use of bomb-sniffing dogs.

New York transit officers began random searches of bags and packages brought into the city's vast subway system after the latest attempted bombings in London.

In Washington and outlying areas, Metro subway and bus system officials said its subway trains and buses are running normally, but on heightened alert.  Increased police and security presence was seen on rail platforms and near bus exchanges throughout the Washington area.