Federal agencies in Washington yesterday took part in a trans-Atlantic mobilization after terrorist attacks took place in Britain, where President Bush and top aides directed the U.S. response.
Heads of the Homeland Security, Defense and State departments, and the national intelligence director received their orders during international telephone and teleconference calls with Mr. Bush and White House Chief of Staff Andrew H. Card Jr. Other agencies, like the White House Military Office, consulted with Deputy Chief of Staff Joe Hagin, who was in Britain with the president.
The effort was aimed at ensuring a unified response among various elements of an administration separated by an ocean.
“The president called a secure video conference with some of his homeland security and national security advisors,” White House press secretary Scott McClellan said. “He wanted to make sure that appropriate agencies were acting and taking any necessary precautions.”
Mr. Bush initially was unable to reach Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff, who already was on the phone with the president’s Homeland Security adviser Fran Townsend. When he later reached Mr. Chertoff, the president instructed him to work “with the Department of Transportation, our other federal partners, state and local officials, and transportation authorities” to beef up security of U.S. transportation systems, Mr. Chertoff said.
To that end, Mr. Chertoff raised the threat code level from yellow, or elevated, to orange, or high, for U.S. mass-transit systems.
“Obviously, we’re concerned about the possibility of a copycat attack,” Mr. Chertoff said. But he added there was “no specific credible evidence” of an imminent attack on the United States.
Meanwhile, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, after consulting with the president, ordered a security review of all U.S. facilities abroad. She also called British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw to offer U.S. intelligence and law-enforcement resources.
At 1:15 p.m., Miss Rice visited the British Embassy in Washington to sign a condolence book and pledge solidarity with Britain.
“I believe very strongly that if anything, this strengthens the resolve of countries like Great Britain and of the people who suffer these attacks,” she told the British Broadcasting Corp. “Because you realize that there is no reasoning with people who would try and destroy innocent lives of people on their way to work on a fine Thursday morning.”
Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld also visited the British Embassy, vowing that Britain, which has strongly supported the U.S.-led war on terror, will receive reciprocal treatment from Washington.
“The United States will stand with the British people with unflinching resolve,” he said. “The British have learned from history that this kind of evil must be confronted. It cannot be appeased.
“Our two countries understand well that once a people give in to terrorists’ demands, whatever they are, their demands will grow.”
Less public was the response of John D. Negroponte, the director of national intelligence, who also received his orders from Mr. Bush yesterday.