- The Washington Times - Wednesday, September 25, 2002

The government yesterday scaled back its nationwide terror alert from "high" to "elevated," or code yellow, based on intelligence reports and the disruption of potential al Qaeda terrorist operations here and abroad.
Attorney General John Ashcroft said threat assessments by the intelligence community, the passing of the September 11 anniversary, the arrest of six men in Buffalo, N.Y., suspected of providing material support to al Qaeda, and the capture of senior al Qaeda operatives in Pakistan, Singapore and Yemen all led to the downgrade.
"These actions have disrupted terrorist operations by neutralizing certain senior al Qaeda leadership and removing other terrorist planners and operatives," Mr. Ashcroft said as he announced an "elevated risk of attack" or code yellow.
Two weeks ago, the government put the nation on high alert, or code orange, the second-highest threat-alert level on the Office of Homeland Security's color-coded system citing what U.S. authorities described as "an abundance of credible intelligence" indicating that terrorists were planning attacks to coincide with the anniversary of the terrorist attacks.
That was the first time the threat level had been raised from code yellow since the color-code system was implemented in March. The decision to lower the threat level was approved by President Bush after recommendations by Mr. Ashcroft and Homeland Security Director Tom Ridge.
The system ranks potential terrorist threats by colors, starting with green at the low end, followed by blue, yellow, orange and red, at the upper end.
Mr. Ashcroft warned that lowering the threat level was not a signal to government, law enforcement or citizens that the danger of a terrorist attack had passed. He said returning to code yellow was only an indication that some of the extra protective measures enacted by government and the private sector may be reduced for the time being.
"We emphasize that the United States and its interests are still at a significant risk of terrorist attack. Detained al Qaeda operatives have informed U.S. intelligence and law enforcement officials that al Qaeda will wait until it believes Americans are less vigilant and less prepared before it will strike again," he said.
"For this reason, and for the safety and security of our nation, Americans must continue to be defiant and alert, undaunted and prepared to respond to a significant risk of terrorist attacks," he said. "The American people serve as our strongest defense against terrorism."


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