- The Washington Times - Wednesday, March 19, 2003

The Bush administration yesterday said it has taken a number of steps to upgrade the security of the nation's financial markets against potential terrorist attacks.
As part of that effort, Treasury Department officials said arrangements have been made for additional physical protection of critical financial institutions, using either federal personnel or National Guard troops.
"We are determined that the financial markets continue to do business even during times of hostilities abroad or adversity at home," Treasury said in a fact sheet. "We continue to work with the financial and banking communities so that our financial system remains functioning efficiently and effectively."
The September 11 terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center shut down New York Stock Exchange operations for four days because of damage to critical telecommunications and computer systems.
However, since that time, both the New York Stock Exchange and the Nasdaq stock market have established emergency backup procedures designed to prevent a terrorist attack from disrupting trading. Banks and other financial institutions have taken similar steps.
Senior Treasury officials believe Americans would still be able to conduct daily banking, trading and other financial services without disruptions in the event of another terror attack.
The Treasury said in a fact sheet that because of security considerations, the government could not disclose all of the steps that have been taken to protect the financial system.
But officials said the payment and clearing systems for the various exchanges and banks that are most critical to keeping the financial system operating have been identified and various precautions taken.
With increased threat levels, procedures have been set up so that critical financial institutions would be able to increase security for their offices and their computer systems.
The fact sheet said Treasury officials also have set up procedures with other agencies to make sure the government's critical financial functions, including the ability to borrow and make payments such as sending out Social Security and other benefit checks, would not be affected.
Steps also have been taken to make sure federal financial regulators can communicate among themselves and with financial companies in the event of another terrorist attack. Those steps include secured communications lines and the availability of priority telecommunications services, senior Treasury officials said.
And, with the higher terror threat level of orange, a round-the-clock duty officer has been installed to relay threat information to financial regulators as well let them know about erroneous information that might be circulating, Treasury officials said.
A special group of financial officials met yesterday on these issues.
Treasury officials didn't know how much money both the private and public sector have spent since the 2001 terror attacks to improve emergency backup systems.

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