Statement by Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge on Raising the Threat Level

Wednesday, May 21, 2003
The Department of Homeland Security in consultation with the Homeland Security Council, has made the decision to raise the national threat level from an Elevated to High risk of terrorist attack or Level Orange. The U.S. Intelligence Community believes that Al Qaida has entered an operational period worldwide, and this may include attacks in the United States. In the wake of terrorist bombings in Saudi Arabia and Morocco, Al-Qaida and those sympathetic to their cause, are still a principal threat, but threats may also emanate from other anti-U.S. terrorist groups, regional extremist organizations, and ad hoc groups or disgruntled individuals not connected to existing terrorist organizations or state sponsors of terrorism. While there is not credible, specific information with respect to targets or method of attack, the use of tactics similar to those seen in recent terrorist attacks overseas include small arm equipped assault teams, large vehicle borne explosive devices, and suicide bombers. These attacks underscore terrorists' desires to attack soft targets. Weapons of mass destruction, including those containing chemical, biological or radiological agents or materials, cannot be discounted. This afternoon, I have spoken to the nation's Governors through their homeland security advisers and other state and local officials to relay the increased threat, and to ask them to review their own current security measures and deploy additional measures, particularly going into a holiday weekend where there will be many large public gatherings. Other state, local and private sector leaders are also being contacted to engage their support to increase the nation's security. For all Americans, we recommend that you continue with your plans for work or leisure. However, your vigilance at large public events or other locations where crowds gather can help us disrupt terrorists' plans. If you see anything suspicious, do not hesitate to contact your local FBI office. A visible increase in security as well as the vigilance of homeland security professionals at all levels of government and the private sector and the general public can make a difference and prevent potential terrorist attacks.

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