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Holiday Security Concerns

December 31, 2003 at 12:00 AM EDT

GWEN IFLL: As Americans prepared to ring in the New Year, unprecedented security measures were in place from coast to coast. Spencer Michels has our report.

SPENCER MICHELS: The reason for stepped up security: Intelligence reports that half a dozen U.S. cities could be targeted for attack over the holidays. In New York City, thousands of uniformed and undercover police are on duty at Times Square. Metal and radiation detectors are in place there, and garbage cans and mailboxes have been removed. But some partygoers headed to see the traditional ball drop said they weren’t scared.

MAN ON STREET: The minute they get inside your head, they get you at home. That’s when they’re really beating us.

WOMAN ON STREET: We’ve seen it on tele so we want to be here and see it and feel it. It’s going to be nice.

SPENCER MICHELS: But the chair of a congressional terrorism subcommittee warned against going to Times Square tonight. Connecticut Republican Congressman Chris Shays yesterday said: “If normally you go to Times Square, I wouldn’t do what you normally do.” Shays added: “I wouldn’t go into places when you’re packed and where if there was panic, a lot of injuries would take place.” New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg responded on ABC’s “Good Morning America.”

MICHAEL BLOOMBERG: I’m going to be here. A million people are going to be here. It’s a wonderful time of the year. Terrorists aren’t going to win. The police department worries about security. You and I have to worry about dressing warmly and having a good time.

SPENCER MICHELS: Security’s also been beefed up at many of the college football bowl games. In Pasadena, site of the Rose Bowl Game between Michigan and USC tomorrow, electronic sensors are set to detect a biological attack. In Nevada, federal agents swept the strip in Las Vegas for weapons.

War planes will guard the skies over New York and Las Vegas. And private planes will be temporarily banned from flying over several other cities today and tomorrow. At Reagan National Airport in Washington, D.C., cars were randomly searched.

The heightened security came nine days after the nation’s terror alert was raised to its second-highest level: Orange. Earlier this week, the U.S. ordered foreign airlines to post armed marshals on selected flights over the U.S. Meanwhile, as people in Asia and Australia began celebrating the New Year, there were no reported terrorist incidents.