Homeland Security Warns Police, Airlines of Potential Threat

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The Washington Post reports the Department of Homeland Security has warned airlines, local police and emergency personnel across the country to be on heightened alert after U.S. intelligence recently received “multiple reports [that] indicate terrorists may be poised to conduct simultaneous attacks in the near term against US interests” here or overseas, according to an agency memo.

The Oct. 10 “information circular” distributed to thousands of security and law enforcement officials, but not publicly released, repeats earlier warnings about terrorists’ plans to attack “soft targets,” such as hotels and apartment complexes, and terrorists’ interest in launching chemical, biological or radiological attacks in the United States or against U.S. interests overseas.

“Some reports indicate that a large attack could follow a series of smaller operations in the Middle East and South Asia,” the memo states, citing a number of intelligence reports. The advisory says the agency does not know the exact timing, targets or locations of the possible attacks.

Agency spokesman Brian Roerhkasse played down the memo. He said it was not based on new intelligence but was meant to “maintain the awareness and the heightened security level for our homeland security professionals in our country.” But the memo, obtained by The Washington Post, signals the continuing concern of U.S. intelligence and security officials about an imminent terrorist attack.

In recent months, government officials have decided not to raise the national alert level to orange or “high risk” each time they discern a serious terrorism threat. Instead, as was the case with this latest warning, they often send word of the threat to key government and industry executives, but do not alert the general public.

Link: http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/articles/A32056-2003Oct15.html

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