- The Washington Times - Sunday, February 16, 2003

President Bush advised nervous Americans yesterday to "go about their lives" and let professionals handle the job of protecting the nation against another terrorist attacks.
In his weekly radio address, Mr. Bush followed the lead of Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge, who cautioned Friday against panicking about the raising of the national threat level to orange, the second-highest position, and the release of an audiotape believed to have been made by Osama bin Laden.
On Monday, a nationwide run started for supplies such as duct tape and plastic when the White House said those products were among items needed in preparation for another attack, according to guidelines issued last year by the Federal Emergency Management Agency.
But on Friday, Mr. Ridge warned people not to "start sealing the doors and windows" because they could suffocate. Instead, he said, people should have the supplies on hand in case of an attack.
The president said yesterday that raising the level is "primarily a signal to federal, state and local law enforcement to take additional precautions and increase security measures against potential terrorist attacks."
He added that "raising the threat level also tells the general public to be more alert to their surroundings and prepared for possible emergencies in the event of an attack."
Federal law enforcement and U.S. intelligence officials say they have no specific intelligence suggesting type, location or timing of a terrorist operation connected to a U.S. attack on Iraq, but intelligence analysts say there is a high likelihood such an attack will be attempted by al Qaeda if a war begins in the Persian Gulf.
FBI investigators have gathered evidence that as many as a dozen men who trained at al Qaeda camps are on U.S. soil, raising the prospect they may be part of terror cells able to start attacks if a war starts, officials said.
Officials said the effort to prepare law enforcement for war-related terrorism is more subtle and preparatory than the rise last week in the security threat level.
Mr. Bush stressed that steps are being taken to keep the nation safe from more terrorism like that of September 11, which bin Laden and his al Qaeda network executed.
"Our nation is preparing for a variety of threats we hope never will arrive. Many of these dangers are unfamiliar and unsettling. Yet the best way to fight these dangers is to anticipate them," the president said.
Mr. Bush gave examples of what is being done to protect the United States.
"This past week, Secretary … Ridge issued strategic plans … that will guide local officials in securing our nation's dams and power plants, electrical goods, computer networks, and communications systems," the president said.
Mr. Bush hailed action by the FBI to "expand its terrorist identification system so that 18,000 state and local law enforcement agencies will be able to identify known or suspected terrorists almost immediately."
Mr. Bush said he has also asked Congress "to fill a critical need in our defense against bioterror by committing almost $6 billion to quickly make available effective vaccines and treatments."
But Democratic leaders in the House and Senate say Mr. Bush has not included enough money for homeland security in his budget. They say more is needed for police and firefighters, who would be the first to respond to a terrorist attack. They sent a joint letter to the president Friday, calling for him to file a supplemental request that would add billions of dollars to improve U.S. defenses.
This article is based in part on wire service reports.

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