- The Washington Times - Thursday, November 11, 2004

The Department of Homeland Security yesterday lowered the terror threat level from “high” to “elevated” for financial institutions in New York, New Jersey and Washington, saying “permanent protective measures” are now in place around sites identified as potential terrorist targets.

“State and local leaders as well as the private sector have worked hard to strengthen security in and around specific buildings and locations as well as throughout the financial services sector,” Homeland Security Deputy Secretary James Loy said in a conference call with reporters.

“These new measures include increased security, enhanced screening measures, increased perimeter protection and the development of security buffer zone protection plans.”

Mr. Loy also said additional steps have been taken to strengthen emergency preparedness and response by improving communications systems and protocols for financial regulators and critical financial institutions.

“Although the threat level is being lowered for the financial services sector in these three cities, the country remains at an elevated risk for terrorist attack,” he said, noting that the government will continue to monitor and analyze threat information and share that information with state, local and private-sector authorities, as well as the public.

“We are as concerned today as we were a month ago,” Mr. Loy said. “My sense is this particular enemy will pick their time and pick their place.”

The threat level was raised from elevated (Code Yellow) to high (Code Orange) on Aug. 1 by Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge, based on information that terrorists had updated their plans to attack financial institutions in New York, New Jersey and Washington. He said “actionable information” had prompted the threat level increase.

U.S. Capitol Police announced yesterday they would dismantle 14 vehicle checkpoints put in place around the U.S. Capitol on Aug. 2.

“Effective immediately, the vehicle checkpoints will no longer be used on a daily basis,” said Officer Contricia Sellers-Ford, a Capitol Police spokeswoman.

The checkpoints angered D.C. officials, who complained they were not consulted about the decision to implement them. The District’s nonvoting congressional representative, Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton, gave qualified approval to yesterday’s action.

“I have reiterated to security officials here at the Capitol that while I am pleased that change is on the way, we will not be satisfied until the nation’s capital no longer looks like an armed camp,” she said.

Officer Sellers-Ford said the dismantling of the checkpoints was not tied solely to the reduced threat level but also was based on intelligence, cost and stress on the officers. Capitol Police officers had been working 12-hour shifts to staff the checkpoints.

In place of the 14 checkpoints, Capitol Police plan to set up temporary checkpoints at random times and locations around the Capitol.

One temporary change that has become permanent is the closure of First Street NE between D Street and Constitution Avenue. Capitol Police Chief Terrance W. Gainer said Tuesday the road, which runs between the Russell and Dirksen Senate office buildings, would not reopen to vehicle traffic.

Federal authorities said information from a computer seized during the arrest of an al Qaeda operative in Pakistan revealed detailed surveillance of the Prudential Financial building in Newark, N.J., the Citigroup Center and New York Stock Exchange, and the World Bank and International Monetary Fund in Washington.

Officials said the information did not include a specific time frame, although terrorists were believed to have targeted the placement of security cameras, traffic patterns, the kinds of vehicles allowed in adjacent parking facilities, and where explosives could be hidden.

Law enforcement authorities in New York have been at Code Orange since the system was instituted in the wake of the September 11 attacks on the World Trade Center. The city will remain at that level, based on local authorities’ decisions.

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