- The Washington Times - Thursday, March 20, 2003

The FBI planned to run full staffs around the clock starting today, the National Guard stood by to help prevent terrorist attacks and control anti-war protesters, and Metrobuses were banned from military bases yesterday as agencies increased security measures in preparation for the U.S.-led war against Iraq.
Van A. Harp, head of the FBI's Washington field office, said leave has been canceled for all of the agency's nearly 700 personnel and asked the public to phone in all suspicious activity.
"We're going to have additional people out on the street, following up on any complaints of suspicious activity," Mr. Harp said. "We've been doing that routinely, but we're going to have a larger commitment so that every complaint will be tracked immediately."
Security around the FBI's offices also has been increased, and all of the agency's special-response teams will be fully staffed around the clock.
Meanwhile, the National Guard units stood ready for a variety of situations.
"We're ready if called upon," said Maj. Charles Kohler, spokesman for the Maryland National Guard.
The 8,000-member Maryland Guard could be called on to protect critical areas in the state or help control anti-war protesters in the District, who have said they plan to disrupt city traffic.
The region's top elected officials have said they do not plan to call out Guard units yet, but have been instructed by Homeland Security Director Tom Ridge to do so if the need arises.
Mr. Ridge on Tuesday announced the implementation of Operation Liberty Shield, which aims to "increase security at our borders, strengthen transportation sector protections, enhance security at our critical infrastructure, increase public health preparedness and make sure all federal response assets can be deployed quickly."
The nation's alert level was also raised to Orange, or elevated, on Tuesday. This is the third time since September 11, 2001, that the alert has risen to Orange.
In the District, military officials decided that Metrobuses would no longer be allowed to drive through Bolling Air Force Base or the Anacostia Naval Station, beginning tomorrow. Bus riders will have to board buses outside the bases and walk through checkpoints.
"This restriction is the result of the military's heightened state of security as the U.S. prepares to engage in war," said Metro spokeswoman Lisa Farbstein.
Metro increased security measures this week as ridership hit record highs because of a police standoff with a disgruntled tobacco farmer on the Mall that closed several streets downtown.
Metro had it sixth-highest ridership ever on Tuesday, with 705,892 riders, and was on a pace to have even more riders yesterday.
Metro said it has increased the number of patrols and station checks by officers with police dogs, and stepped up surveillance at bus and rail yards. Officials said they were also urging customers to be alert and diligent.
The D.C. government began checking IDs and searching some purses of persons entering city buildings yesterday.
The Secret Service maintained its extended perimeter around the White House, keeping pedestrians off sidewalks from Pennsylvania Avenue and E Street between 15th and 17th streets NW, and on 17th Street adjacent to the Old Executive Office Building, as well as on 15th Street alongside the Treasury Department.
Authorities continued to search cars at local airports as well.
The increased security raised tension among area residents, but Fairfax County high school student Matt Wansley, 17, said most students are still not overly concerned.
"I think there would have to be some sort of event to bring it home. It seems pretty abstract right now," said Matt, who is the student representative to the county Board of Education.

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