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Homeland Security

Remarks for Secretary Tom Ridge Threat Level Statement

Office of the Press Secretary
Contact: 202-282-8010
August 1, 2004
(Remarks as Prepared)

Good afternoon.  President Bush has told you, and I have told you, when we have specific credible information, we will share it.  

This afternoon, we do have new and unusually specific information about where al Qaida would like to attack.  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, D.C.  

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 their highest capacity.  

This will allow us to increase protection in and around those buildings that require it and also raise awareness for employees, residents, customers and visitors.

We know from experience that increased physical protection and added vigilance from citizens can thwart a terrorist attack. And that is our goal.

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 is alarming in both the amount and specificity of the information.

While we are providing you with this immediate information, we will continue to update you as the situation unfolds.  As of now, this is what we know:  reports indicate that al Qaida is targeting several specific buildings, including the International Monetary Fund and World Bank in D.C.; Prudential Financial in Northern New Jersey; and Citigroup buildings and the New York Stock Exchange in New York.  Let me assure 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.

Senior leadership across the Department of Homeland Security, in coordination with the White House, the FBI, CIA and other federal agencies, have been in constant contact with the governors, mayors and 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 tailor security measures to the particular vulnerabilities of potential targets.  

Understandably, security measures at each facility will not be uniform in nature, given the scope and scale of building architecture, access to and from roads and other variables.  Certainly, we will not broadcast our intentions to the enemy.

But you may expect to see special buffer zones to secure the perimeters of 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 robust screening of vehicles, packages and deliveries.

These and other security measures, both seen and unseen, create added layers of protection to an already vigorous security effort across the country.  So let me be clear:  While we have raised the threat level for the financial services sector, the rest of the nation remains at an elevated – or Code Yellow – risk of terrorist attack.

Rest assured, the most talented security professionals are working hard to protect all regions of the country and all sectors of our economy.

Over the course of the last year, and since the horrific day of 9-11, more permanent protections are in place than ever before. You have seen them.  They have become part of our daily life:  additional airport security, including screenings, air marshals, hardened cockpit doors.  You have seen more visible law enforcement officers on trains, subways, and other transportation systems.  You have seen increased inspections at our nation’s ports and border crossings.

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 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.

Along with smart security professionals, these technologies helped bring the Democratic National Convention to a safe conclusion. State-of-the-art equipment like this is now being installed to protect the Republican National Convention in New York later this month. 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.

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 cyber space; on air, land, and sea.  We are safer today than we have ever been.

We bring you this information today, and, again, will continue to update you if new specific information becomes available. Because with 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 realize that this is sobering news, not just about the intent of our enemies, but of their specific plans and methods.

This kind of information 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

Terrorists should know, in this country, this kind of information, while startling, is not stifling.

It will not weaken the American spirit or dampen our resolve.  Our resolve is indivisible – and unyielding – a weapon infinitely stronger than the plots and plans of those who wish to do us harm.

Al Qaida 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.

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