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Homeland Security

07 July 2005

U.S. Increases Security Measures for Mass Transit Systems

No credible U.S. threat, but response is prudent, Chertoff says

By Merle D. Kellerhals, Jr.
Washington File Staff Writer

Washington -- The United States increased its terrorist threat level July 7 for mass-transit systems nationwide in direct response to terrorist attacks that rocked London earlier in the day.

Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff said U.S. government officials and analysts continue to monitor events that occurred in London when four bombs detonated at three subway stations and on a bus within an hour during the morning rush hour.  Early news reports indicate that at least 33 people were killed and approximately 700 were injured in the four attacks across London.

Chertoff spoke with President Bush, who is in Scotland for the Group of Eight Summit, via a videoconference earlier in the day along with Vice President Cheney and other homeland security and national security officials.

He said the color-coded national terrorist threat level was raised from "elevated," or code color yellow, to "high," or code orange, for all commuter and rail passenger trains, metropolitan subway systems and commercial passenger buses across the nation.

He emphasized that only the mass transit portion of the nation's transportation sector was included in this threat-level elevation.

"This includes regional and inner-city passenger rail, subways and metropolitan bus systems.  We are also asking for increased vigilance throughout the transportation sector," Chertoff said during a news briefing at the Department of Homeland Security headquarters in Washington.

"Currently, the United States has no specific, credible information suggesting an imminent attack here in the United States.  However, we know the tactics and methods of terrorists, as demonstrated by the horrific rail bombings last year in Madrid."

Chertoff said that the intent of al-Qaida and its affiliated organizations to attack in Europe and in the United States has been documented and continues to be reflected in intelligence reporting.  Early news reports from Europe indicate that an al-Qaida affiliate might have been responsible for the July 7 attacks.

"We've already taken additional measures to secure transit systems since 9/11 and since the railway bombing in Madrid," he said.  "At the direction of the president, we are working with the Department of Transportation, our other federal partners, state and local officials, and transportation authorities to take all necessary precautions and to increase the security of our transportation citizens -- systems and the citizens who ride them."

Chertoff said it is only prudent for the United States to take additional precautions for its mass-transit systems following the London and Madrid attacks.

"When we consider the typical way in which al-Qaida has carried out its tactics, which includes simultaneous activity in various places; common sense, again, tells us that we ought to make some reasonable adjustment in the threat level with respect to those elements of the transportation system which parallel what was the focus of attack in London," he said.

The change in the terror threat level is the first in about a year.  It is the seventh time the threat level has been raised since the five-color coded system was launched in March 2002 in the aftermath of the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks on the United States.

"We have asked state and local leaders and transportation officials to increase their protective measures including: additional law enforcement police, bomb-detecting K-9 teams, increased video surveillance, spot testing in certain areas, added perimeter barriers, extra intrusion-detection equipment, and increased numbers of inspection of trash receptacles and other storage areas," he said.

Chertoff said he has also maintained close contact with British officials in London since the attacks.

"Our thoughts and prayers are with the British people and the grieving families.  America stands with you in this time of crisis to assist and support you in every way possible," he said.

"Terrorists may bomb and attack and attempt to use weapons of fear to shake the confidence and will of free nations and free people, but they will not succeed."

For additional information on the London bombings, see Response to Terrorism.

(The Washington File is a product of the Bureau of International Information Programs, U.S. Department of State. Web site: http://usinfo.state.gov)



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