Spencer Michels has the story of the latest terrorist threats on bridges in eight western states.
JIM LEHRER: Now to the state of terrorist warnings, alerts, and threats this Friday night, we begin with the one about possible attacks on bridges in eight western states. California Governor Gray Davis made the alert public last night. We have a report from Spencer Michels in San Francisco.
SPENCER MICHELS: Until now, the West Coast had only been involved from afar in the terrorism crisis. But disclosure yesterday by California Governor Gray Davis that there had been a credible threat to four western suspension bridges, sent a sharp chill through the state.
GOV. GRAY DAVIS (Calif.): We believe there's a credible threat that there'll be an effort made between Nov. 2 and Nov. 7 to destroy one of those bridges.
SPENCER MICHELS: The governor announced increased security at the bridges, including the Golden Gate and the San Francisco Oakland Bay Bridge in the Bay area, the Vincent Thomas Bridge in Los Angeles, and the Coronado Bridge, even though it isn't a suspension bridge, in San Diego. A few National Guard troops showed up this morning for duty at the Golden Gate and walked along the walkway. Traffic was heavy early, but much lighter than usual by 8:00. The bridge carries 118,000 vehicles a day. California highway patrol officers were on hand as they have been ever since Sept. 11. Part of their job, according to one officer, is to keep cars off the bridge in case of trouble.
OFFICER E.F. BLANCO, California Highway Patrol: What we're trying to do is trying to protect the people from getting hurt if something happens.
SPENCER MICHELS: Officials say they have had to assess each incident, and there have been others, since Sept. 11. The bridge depends on the FBI to interpret threats.
KARY WITT, Manager, Golden Gate Bridge: Well, I think there was some confusion surrounding how credible this information was. And it's a very, very difficult situation. You get a piece of information, and of course, everyone is trying to figure out, is it real is it not real? And there's a lot of information floating out there.
SPENCER MICHELS: Except for some patrol vehicles, the average motorist could hardly tell anything was different on the bridge.
KARY WITT: It's business as usual here this morning. The bridge is as safe as it's ever been, and again, with the incredible number of security people we have, we're ready to respond aggressively to anything that looks like it might endanger anyone.
SPENCER MICHELS: Not everyone was buying that. At the ferryboat terminal in Marin County across the Golden Gate, business to San Francisco was up so much that they had to put on an extra ferryboat. Some of these people were consciously reacting to the threat and some weren't.
JEROME SCHNEIDER: I think you'd have to be out of your mind if you're a logical person and have an option to go on the ferry to not take the ferry.
MARK LUCKY: I don't know. I'm not really worried. I refuse to let the terrorists win. I walk around saying, you know what? The terrorists are winning if this happens, and I don't... For us to be afraid, so I'm not thinking about it in those terms. I'm not afraid.
SPENCER MICHELS: Security in the form of more National Guard soldiers was also up today on the Bay Bridge, which links San Francisco and Oakland. Helicopters patrolled alongside the bridge, while boats from the Coast Guard were in the Bay looking at the structure from the water. This bridge carries 278,000 vehicles a day, but today traffic was down 5 per cent from last week. Some access points to the infrastructure have been welded shut for security. More people took the Bay area rapid transit, which travels in tunnels underneath the Bay. Some Californians, including the sheriff of Alameda County and these hikers, were critical of the governor for disclosing the threat
WOMAN: That's stupid.
MAN: Well, as I understand it, it wasn't... It wasn't quite as definite as he originally had though.
WOMAN: There are a lot of people who are depressed and that are easily...
MAN: Influenced, yeah.
WOMAN: Yes, and you make them just unhappy, and that's not... No, that's not what we want.
WOMAN: It should have been more substantiated. It did put fear in some people, but we decided to come anyway and keep living our lives.
SPENCER MICHELS: Late today, Governor Davis held another news conference to clear up the consternation his earlier remarks had caused.
GOV. GRAY DAVIS: I have no apologies for the decision I made yesterday. I acted on three written warnings from three federal offices indicating that there was a potential threat to suspension bridges on the West Coast. We get briefings almost every day, but this one was time specific and location specific, and I felt it was appropriate to tell people what I was doing... I felt it was appropriate to tell people what I was doing and inform them.
SPENCER MICHELS: Meanwhile, thousands of drivers continued to use California's bridges despite the fear felt by many residents.