U.S. Put on Increased Alert; New Intelligence Raises Risk of Attack to High level.(PAGE ONE)

Article excerpt

Byline: Rowan Scarborough, THE WASHINGTON TIMES

The Bush administration yesterday raised the national alert status for a terrorist attack to the highest level to date, as the military, police and local governments ratcheted up security for the first anniversary of September 11.

Based on fresh intelligence reports, President Bush accepted a recommendation from homeland security advisers to increase the alert one notch, from code yellow to orange, indicating an increased chance of attack.

Officials said there is no information about a specific target or time, and intelligence suggests any attacks today will occur overseas. Key information came from a captured member of al Qaeda, Osama bin Laden's terror group, which carried out last year's attacks on the Pentagon and World Trade Center.

"The threats that we have heard recently remind us of the pattern of threats we heard prior to September the 11th," Mr. Bush said while visiting the embassy of Afghanistan, the country that became the first battlefield in the war against terrorism.

Locally, police and government authorities stepped up security at monuments and federal buildings, and U.S. Capitol Police officers changed from eight-hour shifts to 12-hour shifts so more officers could be deployed today.

Congress will remain open for business today and no special road closures are planned, said Lt. Dan Nichols, a spokesman for the U.S. Capitol Police. "I think it's going to be rather transparent to the visiting public," he said of the increased level of security.

D.C. Mayor Anthony A. Williams told reporters yesterday that the nation's capital was vigilant.

"There are not any specific threats against this city or against any other city in the United States that we know of," Mr. Williams said. "Our plan at this point is not to overreact."

As part of a military exercise announced Monday, anti-aircraft missile batteries have been stationed at undisclosed locations around Washington.

Yesterday's escalation of the alert level came after intelligence agencies collected information about potential attacks on U.S. citizens and embassies abroad. Code orange is the second-highest of five color warnings. The highest, code red, signals a specific attack is imminent.

"The increased threat level is based on specific intelligence received and analyzed by the full intelligence community," Attorney General John Ashcroft said in a Justice Department announcement.

"This information has been corroborated by multiple intelligence sources," Mr. Ashcroft added, indicating the United States was not taking the word of the captured al Qaeda member alone.

Homeland Security Director Tom Ridge, who designed the color-coded system for warning citizens, said: "We are now at high risk of a terrorist attack. For now, we are at level orange."

A senior intelligence official, who asked not to be named, said there is no indication of an impending attack on the United States. He predicted there will be relatively small attacks overseas today in the form of suicide or car bombings.

Vice President Richard B. Cheney went to an undisclosed location Monday night in reaction to the new information. He returned to the White House yesterday, then again left for his hideaway.

Mr. Ashcroft did not recommend the cancellation of public events or airline flights. The Federal Aviation Administration will limit air traffic over Washington, New York and Shanksville, Pa., - sites of September 11 crashes of four hijacked airliners - during ceremonies today. …