- The Washington Times - Saturday, November 3, 2001

Attorney General John Ashcroft yesterday defended a decision to issue warnings of possible terrorist attacks against targets in eight Western states, while National Guard troops and police patrolled four landmark bridges in California.
"There are times when I believe both the credibility of the threat and the scope or nature of the threat require and provide a basis for our speaking to the public," Mr. Ashcroft said at a news conference. "When there are specific threats, we share those with local officials. I believe the action we took was appropriate."
California Gov. Gray Davis, under fire from some government officials and the media after publicly confirming the terrorist threat to major bridges during a Thursday news conference, said he had "an obligation" to inform the public.
He said the FBI and other law enforcement officials had gathered "credible information from several different sources" that an effort could be made to "blow up" a major bridge during rush hour.
"I have an obligation to share with the people of this state, information that may well be credible that affects their lives," he said during an appearance Thursday night on "Larry King Live." "More importantly, I want them to know we have gone the extra mile to protect them. And certainly calling up the National Guard shows we are serious about this."
State officials said traffic on the four bridges named as possible terrorist targets the Golden Gate Bridge, San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge, Coronado Bridge in San Diego and Vincent Thomas Bridge at the Port of Los Angeles did not decline despite the threat.
They said the number of vehicles crossing the Golden Gate Bridge actually was up from normal. The four bridges carry about 500,000 vehicles each day.
Mr. Davis said state officials were told by three separate federal agencies there was the potential of a rush-hour terrorist attack against suspension bridges on the West Coast.
He said security was heightened and the public was notified in response to that warning.
Law enforcement authorities said the initial lead that attacks might be imminent came from U.S. Customs Service sources.
The FBI warning to the Western states said: "The FBI is in possession of uncorroborated information indicating the possibility of additional terrorist attacks against the United States, specifically the West Coast. Reportedly, unspecified groups are targeting suspension bridges on the West Coast. Six incidents are to take place during rush hour beginning Friday, Nov. 2, and continuing through Nov. 7. No further information about this alleged attack is known at this time. The FBI is attempting to verify the validity of this report."
Federal authorities also issued warnings to law enforcement agencies in Washington, Oregon, Arizona, Nevada, Utah, Montana and Idaho. Justice Department spokeswoman Mindy Tucker told reporters that the warning to Western states was "at a lower level" than a general alert issued Monday by Mr. Ashcroft to 18,000 law-enforcement agencies nationwide.
President Bush said it was a governor's prerogative to pass along whatever information is deemed necessary.
"When I was a governor of Texas, I was elected by the people of Texas, and I handled my state's business the way I thought was necessary. And I think any governor should be able to conduct their business the way they see fit," he told reporters.
In California, National Guard troops in full battle fatigues and carrying M-16 rifles patrolled both the Golden Gate and San Francisco-Oakland Bay bridges while Los Angeles police and California Highway Patrol officers increased security at the Coronado Bridge and the Vincent Thomas Bridge. U.S. Coast Guard boats also protected water access to the four bridges.
Meanwhile, FBI Director Robert S. Mueller III yesterday said investigators have confirmed the true identities of the 19 hijackers who commandeered four jetliners on September 11, crashing three of them into the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, killing more than 5,000 people.

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