- The Washington Times - Thursday, August 12, 2004

The latest terror alerts in the District have rattled suburban residents and businesses but haven’t prompted any significant changes in security procedures, area law enforcement officials said.

In Arlington County, calls to police reporting suspicious activity jumped after Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge issued the terror alert Aug. 1. The alert mentioned specific financial targets in the District, New York City and New Jersey.

Arlington County policereceived five to 10 more calls than usual reporting suspicious activity in the days after the alerts, said Matt Martin, a police department spokesman.

Mr. Martin said police usually see a spike in such activity calls after heightened terror alerts, which have been issued five times since the September 11 terrorist attacks three years ago.

“September 11 has created a climate where people are more on the lookout for things they weren’t before,” Mr. Martin said. “The reality is that groups of Middle Eastern males, in particular, taking photographs in certain areas, guarantee calls. That wouldn’t have been the case before September 11. That’s just one example. People have a heightened awareness of suspicious activity.”

Private companies such as Internet service provider America Online Inc. (AOL), which is based in Dulles, Va., also took special note of the most recent terror alerts, said company spokesman Nicholas Graham.

“We were very much attuned to the latest security alert because for the first time it mentioned corporate targets,” Mr. Graham said. “We felt it was appropriate to remind employees of security procedures we have in place, as we head into a very high-charged fall.”

In an e-mail to its employees, AOL officials said, “It seems that we are entering an unusual season filled with potential to disrupt our business and personal lives. … This summer and fall will also feature another political convention and national elections, as well as the Olympics, and these may offer attractive targets for those who seek to disrupt our democratic processes and liberties.”

About half the world’s Internet traffic flows through the servers of several companies in Northern Virginia, Mr. Graham said. AOL generated $8.6 billion of revenue in fiscal 2003, and delivered 450 million e-mails and 2 billion instant messages a day, Mr. Graham said.

AOL employs its own security team of trained professionals with backgrounds in law enforcement, Mr. Graham said, and monitors air traffic from nearby Washington Dulles International Airport.

Officials from local police jurisdictions said the most recent heightened terror alert did not prompt any drastic security changes but was a reminder of how law enforcement has changed since the attacks.

September 11 “has changed almost every aspect of the way we patrol,” said Kraig Troxell, a spokesman for the Loudoun County Sheriff’s Office. “Since then we have identified areas of the county that we have deemed could be potential terrorist targets.”

Each local jurisdiction receives daily information from federal law enforcement, officials said.

A special investigations unit in Montgomery County is in daily contact with federal agencies.

“They evaluate it, see how it applies to our county and our citizens, and then appropriate information is shared with our officers at daily roll call,” said Officer Derek Baliles, a spokesman for Montgomery County police.

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