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Ashcroft Defends Threat Warnings

Ashcroft said the Justice Dept. believes the release was “appropriate” given the nature of the threats. It was sent, he said, after administration officials reviewed it carefully.

“There are times when I believe that both the credibility and the scope and nature of the threats require and provide a basis for our speaking to the public about the threats,” Ashcroft told reporters.

The Justice Dept. today released the text of the advisory, which told state officials the FBI had “uncorroborated information indicating the possibility of additional terrorist attacks against the United States, specifically the West Coast.”

The advisory warned that “unspecified groups” were “reportedly” targeting West Coast suspension bridges. It said six incidents were planned during rush hour times from Friday through next Wednesday.

“The FBI is attempting to verify the validity of this report,” the advisory said.

The alert, issued by the FBI Counterterrorism division and sent to several Western states, prompted California Gov. Gray Davis to order that security be heightened around the state’s major bridges, including San Francisco’s famed Golden Gate Bridge.

In a news conference yesterday, Davis told reporters there was “credible evidence” that West Coast sites could be attacked as early as today.

The governor said the California Highway Patrol, the National Guard and the U.S. Coast Guard are all involved in the strict security.

He said Los Angeles’ Vincent Thomas Bridge, San Diego’s Coronado Bridge and San Francisco’s Bay Bridge are other potential targets.

The advisory is one of the first where an official has named a specific target of a suspected terrorist attack.

Justice Dept. spokeswoman Mindy Tucker told the Associated Press the information that led to the alert was “at a lower level” than reports that led to the FBI’s nationwide terrorism warning issued Monday.

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