09 January 2004
Ridge Says Intelligence Review Led to Reduced Terrorist Threat Alert
Level lowered from "high" to "elevated"
U.S. Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge says that after a careful review of available intelligence the national terrorist attack warning level has been lowered to "elevated" from a "high" risk of attack.
The national terrorist threat level had been at the second highest level -- "high," or Code Orange -- since December 21, but was lowered to "elevated," or Code Yellow, January 9, he said. The threat level system ranks threats by colors starting with green at the bottom followed by blue, yellow, orange and red as the threat potential intensifies.
The alert system -- developed shortly after September 11, 2001 -- can apply nationally or regionally, but has never been lower than an "elevated" level. The terrorist alert system couples the threat level with protective measures taken by federal and local governments to reduce the nation's vulnerabilities.
"We are still concerned about the continued threats, but the threat conditions that we've been following have diminished," Ridge said at a Washington news conference. "With the passing of the holidays and many large gatherings that occurred during this time, we have made the decision to come down to Yellow."
While the threat level has lessened, he said, the United States has not let its guard down.
"Yellow still means that we're at an elevated level of risk," Ridge said. "And we will maintain particular vigilance around some critical resources and locales."
Following is a transcript of Ridge's remarks:
THREAT LEVEL PRESS CONFERENCE
Remarks by Secretary Tom Ridge on Lowering National Threat Level to Yellow
Office of the Press Secretary
Washington, D.C. January 9, 2004
Good afternoon. Three weeks ago, the United States government raised the national threat level from an "Elevated" to a "High" risk of terrorist attack -- or as it's more commonly known -- from Code Yellow to Code Orange.
Today, based on a careful review of the available intelligence, we have lowered the threat level to Yellow. We are still concerned about the continued threats, but the threat conditions that we've been following have diminished. With the passing of the holidays and many large gatherings that occurred during this time, we have made the decision to come down to Yellow.
When we went to Code Orange on December 21, we asked the nation's governors, mayors, homeland security professionals, international partners and the public to undertake actions that required speed and reach. I'm pleased to report that the level of response and resolve to that call to action was exceptional and virtually unprecedented. Most of you saw the scope of protective measures that were undertaken. You saw an increased police presence at shopping malls, train stations and power plants. You saw planes sitting on tarmacs. Perhaps you stood through longer lines. On behalf of the President and myself, I want to thank everyone who offered their efforts and patience during this time.
I know that we are all thankful that nothing happened. The holidays have passed; the potential danger that large gatherings present during the holidays has passed. They passed safely and without incident. We believe this is a testament to the incredible level of awareness, information sharing and communication that stretched across the country and the world. We know from experience that the increased security and vigilance that accompany a raise in the threat level does make a difference in deterring and disrupting a terrorist attack.
Let me emphasize that, although we have returned to Yellow, we have not let our guard down. Yellow still means that we're at an elevated level of risk. And we will maintain particular vigilance around some critical resources and locales. And so, the force of homeland security continues to move forward.
Just in the last three weeks, we took important steps to increase this nation's level of protection. For example, we issued aviation emergency amendments to enhance security relating to passenger and commercial aircraft flying to, from and over the United States, and provided air cover to several of our nation's cities. We deployed state-of-the-art sensor detection equipment that can readily scan for radiological devices and bioagents. We launched US-VISIT, a program that uses biometrics to expedite the processing of foreign travelers and stop known or suspected terrorists at our borders.
As I mentioned, some of these security steps also led to planes sitting on runways for extended periods of time. Most of you will agree that we always want to put safety first. But we also want to minimize inconvenience. I assure you that we will continue to look for ways to do so.
Everything we do is designed to keep planes flying, bring loved ones closer, enable sports fans to gather, help businesses stay open -- in other words, to keep this country moving. And to terrorists who think America would ever do otherwise, this country again has proven you wrong. Your goal is to sow fear. But you will not succeed in the United States of America.
We are a free people. We are united, resilient and resolved. We will continue to go forward with our lives -- blessed by our freedoms and comforted in the knowledge that, across this country and around the world, skilled and dedicated people are at work to keep us safe.
(Distributed by the Bureau of International Information Programs, U.S. Department of State. Web site: http://usinfo.state.gov)
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