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Homeland Security

03 August 2004

White House Report, August 3: Terror Alerts

Data that prompted higher terror level "detailed" and "specific"

News reports criticizing the recent terror alerts for relying on out-of-date information are "wrong" and "irresponsible," White House Press Secretary Scott McClellan told reporters August 3 while on board Air Force One en route to Dallas, Texas.

On August 1, the Department of Homeland Security raised the threat level for the financial-service sectors of New York City, northern New Jersey, and Washington to "Code Orange" (high risk of terrorist attacks) due to "specific and credible" information regarding al Qaeda's plans to attack the United States.

Controversy over the intelligence has ensued, following reports that some of the information discovered is over three years old.

"Anyone who looks at the detail and specificity of this information (along with) what we know about al Qaeda's sophistication and history," McClellan said, "would not make such an irresponsible suggestion."

The spokesman pointed to al Qaeda's history of long-term planning and the consistent stream of incoming intelligence, citing embassy bombings, the 2000 attack on the American destroyer USS Cole, and the September 11, 2001, attacks as "attacks that were planned well in advance and updated before the attacks were carried out."

McClellan referenced a statement by the 9/11 Commission that "al Qaeda is an enemy that is sophisticated, disciplined, patient, and lethal" and added that "this intelligence that has recently come to our attention, and that we're still analyzing, and learning more about, [is] really a menu of options for al Qaeda to pursue."

"The detail of this information is chilling," he said. "It is real, and it is serious."

(Distributed by the Bureau of International Information Programs, U.S. Department of State. Web site: http://usinfo.state.gov)

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