- The Washington Times - Thursday, February 13, 2003

WASHINGTON, Feb. 13 (UPI) — Administration officials Thursday warned members of Congress to lower their profiles in light of concerns al Qaida could target individual lawmakers. In a closed-door meeting with Homeland Security Chairman Tom Ridge, members were warned to take precautions while working in and around the Capitol complex, according to people familiar with the discussions.

With the United States and allies in the war on terror at high alert for possible attacks by Osama bin Laden's al Qaida network, there has been significant concern by intelligence officials that the Capitol complex could be targeted.

In addition, specific intelligence gathered from interviews with al Qaida prisoners has indicated that the organization is starting to focus its efforts on assassination of U.S. officials. Earlier in the year, a State Department official was killed in Jordan by al Qaida operatives.

As a result, Ridge told members of Congress to use the tunnels that connect House and Senate office buildings to the Capitol to travel the complex instead of walking outdoors. He also suggested varying jogging routes and removing the license plates specially issued to members of Congress from vehicles for the immediate future.

He also apparently reiterated public warnings made earlier in the week that households should develop emergency plans in case of an attack, stockpile food and water and use duct tape and plastic sheeting to seal off rooms in case of a biological or chemical attack.

Since the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks on Washington and New York and the mailed anthrax attacks on several Senate offices, members of Congress, staff and the media who work on the Capitol campus have been issued evacuation hoods in case of a chemical or biological attack.

Members of Congress and key staff have been issued Blackberry portable e-mail devices to use to receive information in case of emergency. Pre-arranged evacuation signals and procedures would be sent to those devices in an attack.

On Sept. 11, 2001, when it appeared the plane that eventually crashed in Shanksville, Pa., could have been headed to the Capitol, key members of Congress were evacuated by helicopter to a secure and undisclosed bunker somewhere outside Washington.

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