- The Washington Times - Wednesday, March 19, 2003

The U.S. Secret Service widened perimeters around the White House, the U.S. Coast Guard stepped up patrols on the Potomac River and the Metropolitan Police Department activated its Joint Operations Command Center yesterday in response to a heightened terrorism alert.
Other measures included putting U.S. Park Police officers on duty around national monuments, having more officers carry machine guns, increasing visibility of SWAT teams, searching vehicles at area airports and calling on residents to be extra vigilant.
"We have to be vigilant, but we can't panic," said D.C. Mayor Anthony A. Williams. "We have to have an open city, but we have to have a safe city. We can do both."
Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge yesterday announced Operation Liberty Shield, a "comprehensive national plan of action" designed to deter terrorist attacks and protect the nation's infrastructure in the event of war with Iraq. The nation's terrorism alert level was heightened to Code Orange on Monday night.
D.C. Police Chief Charles H. Ramsey mobilized the Joint Operations Command Center and said the center's 14 security cameras would be activated "as long as it is Code Orange."
Chief Ramsey said the District's police force would take more steps to deal with the flood of protesters and the security needs of federal buildings that a war is likely to bring.
"We do have a plan in place in the event that war should break out," Chief Ramsey said. "It does involve extending shifts. It does involve additional people deployed in neighborhoods and the like, and that will be implemented when it becomes necessary to do that."
Mr. Williams emphasized that no specific threat was reported and that the District had no immediate need for street closings, additional security for sporting events or the deployment of the National Guard.
"[Regarding] what we're doing right now in terms of prevention, I think it's very important that we calibrate our response and we do what we're doing based on assessment of information, not based on just some general notion or something," Mr. Williams said.
He noted a heightened cooperation between local and federal authorities, and U.S. Park Police spokesman Sgt. Scott Fear said additional officers would be deployed to national monuments.
The U.S. Secret Service yesterday widened its security perimeter around the White House. Pedestrians are banned from Pennsylvania Avenue and E Street between 15th and 17th streets. Also off-limits is the sidewalk on 17th Street adjacent to the Old Executive Office Building, as well as the sidewalk on 15th Street alongside the Treasury Department.
U.S. Capitol Police increased its presence around the Capitol but has not changed any security measures, spokeswoman Jessica Gissubel said.
"We are not closing down the Capitol. That's been a major question. War alone will not change our posture on Capitol Hill. It would have to be a specific threat to the Capitol," she said. The Capitol Police Containment Emergency Response Team, similar to a SWAT team, has made itself more visible, as have officers bearing automatic machine guns.
The U.S. Coast Guard cutter Mako from Cape May, N.J., patrolled the Potomac River along the southern shores of the District. "We're most concerned with any vessel that goes north of the Woodrow Wilson Bridge," said Coast Guard Cmdr. Jim McPherson.
The 87-foot-long patrol boat, with an 11-member crew, is part of the Coast Guard's increased 24-hour presence on D.C. waterways since September 11.
"We've never really trained for homeland security," said Petty Officer Andy Schock, 32, from Philadelphia. "There's no clear definition as to what it is, so we're just doing the best we can."
Airport authorities were searching vehicles yesterday. "We don't typically do vehicle searches, but given the orange alert, we are doing them today," said Cheryl Carley-Stewart, spokeswoman at Baltimore-Washington International Airport.
Maryland Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. announced that he had followed the lead of federal authorities and elevated the state's alert level to orange. Around the State House in Annapolis, government security guards armed themselves with shotguns as they did a few weeks ago during another Code Orange alert.
"There is a need to be aware of security concerns," Mr. Ehrlich, a Republican, said during a news conference at the State House. "People need to understand that we are in incredible times, but we need to get on with our lives."
Mr. Ehrlich encouraged all Marylanders to keep their "eyes and ears" open for suspicious activity.
Guard units in every state were advised to stand ready for orders from the president, the secretary of defense or the governor.
Maryland State Police Lt. Col. Stephen T. Moyer, chief of the force's homeland security bureau, urges anyone who sees suspected terrorist activity to call a toll-free hot line: 800/492-TIPS. "If you see something unusual, call us. We will follow up," Col. Moyer said at Mr. Ehrlich's news conference.
Virginia Gov. Mark R. Warner said the move to Code Orange means a whole series of actions involving agencies from the transportation to the health departments.
Mr. Warner, a Democrat, said patrols on bridges, tunnels and other infrastructure will be increased and that the state police will work with the military to upgrade security. He said Virginia had made dramatic strides in security over the past year.
"In Virginia, we have taken deliberate steps for months to prepare for an increased threat such as we now face," he said in a statement. "I am directing state agencies to begin taking the steps necessary to further enhance our readiness and help reduce citizens' concerns."
S.A. Miller contributed to this report, which is based in part on wire service reports.

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