- The Washington Times - Sunday, May 4, 2003

The terror alert level yesterday was lowered from high to elevated status by the Homeland Security Department because of the successful war in Iraq.”The signal we have sent our enemies over the past few weeks has been clear. We will continue to resolutely defend our nation and its freedom,” said Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge.The decision to downgrade the risk from Code Orange to Code Yellow was based on a review of intelligence and an assessment of threats by the intelligence community.However, Mr. Ridge said the United States continues to be at risk of a terrorist attack, so some protective measures adopted when the alert was raised March 17 will remain intact.”We must be vigilant and alert to the possibility that al Qaeda and those sympathetic to their cause, as well as former Iraqi regime state agents and affiliated organizations, may attempt to conduct attacks against the U.S. or our interests abroad,” Mr. Ridge said.The alert was raised to Code Orange on March 17 minutes after President Bush gave dictator Saddam Hussein 48 hours to leave Iraq.The five-level alert system ranges from Code Green, representing a low risk of terrorism, to Code Red, for a severe risk. Code Blue, a level above Code Green, indicates a guarded alert status.The system was implemented in March 2002 in response to the September 11 terrorist attacks. Since then, the threat level has remained either at Code Yellow, signifying an elevated risk, or Code Orange, representing a high risk.To protect against a terrorist attack during the conflict in Iraq, the Homeland Security Department developed an initiative called Operation Liberty Shield. State governors were asked to deploy the National Guard and post law enforcement at strategic locations.Security at borders, airports, and train stations increased, and the Coast Guard stepped up patrols along the shores and at petroleum and chemical plants. Most of those actions will be canceled.Brian Roehrkasse, Homeland Security spokesman, said investigations will continue on suspicious activities discovered during the heightened alert. He did not provide specifics.”We believe that during Operation Liberty Shield, there were individuals in places, at times, where they should not have been,” Mr. Roehrkasse told the Associated Press.New York City will remain on Code Orange alert and continue bridge and tunnel checkpoints.The threat level was raised based on intelligence reports and threats from al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden that an attack on Iraq would be a rallying cry for the terror group.Saddam and his elder son, Uday, also threatened retaliation against the United States if American troops attacked Baghdad. Neither has been seen since the onset of war, leading authorities to believe they are either dead or have fled Iraq.Mr. Bush yesterday signed a $79 billion supplemental spending bill that includes $4.31 billion to state and local governments to offset the costs of Operation Liberty Shield.

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