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Security Heightens in Response to Increased Terror Threat

BY Admin  December 22, 2003 at 12:30 PM EDT

On Sunday, Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge said the threat level now was greater than it had been since the attacks on Sept. 11, 2001, and the intelligence pointed to a higher risk of an attack within the United States rather than U.S. interests abroad.

“There are very specific things. People who know what to do are doing them,” Ridge said on the CBS “Early Show.”

More precautions will be taken at airports, ports and key buildings, according to authorities.

Despite the heightened alert, Ridge encouraged people to “just go about your business.”

He said that people should not cancel travel plans for the holiday. “If you got holiday plans, go.” Ridge said.

“Make no mistake about it, aviation is far more secure than it’s ever been in the history of the country,” he said.

The high costs associated with upgrading the threat level suggest that U.S. officials have credible intelligence for an imminent attack, Reuters reported.

“Every time we go to orange it costs $1 billion a week to put in place enhanced protective measures across the country,” said David Heyman, director of the Homeland Security Initiatives program at the Center for Strategic and International Studies.

The alert had not been upgraded from “Code Yellow” to “Code Orange” in six months before Sunday.

“The information we have indicates that extremists abroad are anticipating near-term attacks that they believe will either rival or exceed” the Sept. 11 attacks, Ridge said on Sunday when he announced the heightened alert status.

According to one official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, some of the intelligence mentioned New York, Washington and cities on the West Coast, the Associated Press reported.

Dams, bridges, nuclear plants, chemical facilities and other public works also concern officials as possible targets.