- The Washington Times - Friday, July 8, 2005

Machine-gun-toting police officers accompanied by bomb-sniffing dogs swept through the Washington area’s Metro stations, trains and buses yesterday, after Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff raised the terrorist threat-level on mass transit systems to Code Orange, or high.

Homeland Security officials instructed local leaders to deploy more police officers, bomb-detecting canine teams and perimeter barriers around transit systems, and to increase video surveillance and inspections of trash cans and storage areas.

“I think our transit systems are safe,” Mr. Chertoff said. “But the fact remains — we have had an incident in London. We feel that, at least in the short term, we should raise the level here because, obviously, we’re concerned about the possibility of a copycat attack.”

Helicopters hovered at RFK Stadium, where Metro Transit Police set up a mobile command station during the Washington Nationals’ afternoon baseball game.

Metropolitan Police Chief Charles H. Ramsey said his officers assisted Metro Transit Police boarding and inspecting trains and buses for signs of suspicious activity and discovered an “inordinate amount” of suspicious packages, though none turned out to be dangerous.

The department’s Special Threat Action Team — a group of 120 officers who are specially trained and equipped to handle terrorist attacks — was activated, along with bomb technicians and canine handlers, and hundreds of officers worked overtime.

The Joint Operations Command Center turned on its 14 cameras stationed throughout the city and monitored Metro cameras in 86 rail stations.

“It’s all precautionary,” Chief Ramsey said. “There’s no intelligence indicating an attack on the U.S., but I think it’s wise for everyone to be taking the steps that they’re taking because, after all, they didn’t know there was going to be an attack in London either, so we just have to be careful.”

The Secret Service provided additional security for embassies of nations whose leaders are attending the Group of Eight (G-8) Summit, along with Israel and other nations friendly to the United States. Police officers from outside jurisdictions supplemented Metro Transit Police and patrolled on trains and buses.

“You will see a lot of different uniforms throughout our Metro system,” said Metro Transit Police Chief Polly Hanson.

In Bethesda, the Red Line’s Medical Center station was closed for an hour while authorities investigated a suspicious package that ultimately proved harmless. Delays were minimal.

Capitol Police officers searched buses and large trucks, but no roads were closed.

Officers were stationed on the steps on the west side of the Capitol and searched the bags of passing tourists, while officers armed with rifles patrolled the parking lot on Pennsylvania Avenue, peering in the windows of parked cars.

Mr. Chertoff said the decision to raise the elevated, or Code Yellow, alert to high, or Code Orange, alert, the second-highest level, was not based on new intelligence.

“However, we know the tactics and methods of terrorists, as demonstrated by the horrific rail bombings last year in Madrid,” Mr. Chertoff said, referring to the March 11 explosions which killed about 200 passengers.

The high alert increases security nationwide on city buses, subways and trains, which were used 9.6 billion times by passengers in 2004.

Lisa Farbstein, a spokeswoman for Metro, said the system averages more than 1 million trips per day in the month of June, 700,000 on trains and 500,000 on buses.

Yesterday’s four London blasts — three on the subway and one on a bus — forced the shutdown of the city’s subway system and coincided with the G-8 summit of world leaders in Scotland.

“This is not an occasion for undue anxiety,” Mr. Chertoff said.

“It’s an occasion for a sense of sympathy and solidarity for our allies over in Britain, renewal of our determination to keep our country safe, and a measured and appropriate response in terms of dealing with what has happened overseas,” Mr. Chertoff said.

New York has been on high alert since the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, but additional security measures were ordered by 6 a.m. to protect the largest mass transit system in the country.

Port Authority police are guarding bridges and tunnels, and state police from New Jersey and Connecticut rode trains into and out of the city while extra police officers were ordered onto airplanes and canine units sniffed for bombs on subway cars and trains entering the city.

“We know that an attack on innocent civilians — the vicious, cowardly attack that occurred in London today — is an attack on every one of us,” said Republican New York Gov. George E. Pataki. “Every one of us who believes in freedom, and who believes about our ability to choose our own destiny, and not be told by others how to live our lives.”

Amtrak said it raised its security threat level, saying it was acting “strictly as a precaution.”

Miami Police Chief John Timoney put his city on high alert at 6 a.m., two hours after the initial London bombings, dispatching bomb squad officers and dogs to patrol the city and waterways.

Boston, Los Angeles, Chicago and Houston stepped up security measures on mass transit systems, and Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa rode his city’s subway and light rail systems to boost rider confidence.

The last high alert warning ran from Aug. 1, 2004, to Nov. 10, 2004, and pertained only to specific financial centers in Washington, New York and New Jersey.

Stephen Dinan contributed to this article.

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