Nation braces for more terrorism

Herald news services

WASHINGTON — "I know many Americans feel fear today," President Bush said Sunday. Truer words were never spoken.

The military campaign now under way exposes Americans to retaliation from the same shadowy forces who engineered the Sept. 11 suicide attacks that killed more than 5,000.

From state capitols to football stadiums to hundreds of ports, the nation stepped up already heightened security precautions Sunday, with the FBI urging local agencies to their highest alert and the Coast Guard expanding to its largest defense operation since World War II.

Within hours of the first strikes on Afghanistan by American and British forces, police shut down the street in front of the State Department in Washington, D.C.; Missouri shut the doors at its state capitol to visitors; Utah state troopers were shifted from their desks to the highways; and airport officials in Chicago, Detroit, Kansas City and elsewhere further tightened safeguards.

In New York, Mayor Rudolph Giuliani said more security checkpoints were set up Sunday, but that no bridges, tunnels or public places would be closed unless there was a specific threat. He said today’s Columbus Day Parade will go on as planned.

The FBI on Sunday urged local law enforcement agencies nationwide to move to their highest level of alert, and "be prepared to respond to any act of terrorism or violence." There were no specific threats, FBI officials said.

The nation’s major ports and many waterways were placed under the largest defense operation since World War II, the Coast Guard said as it expanded armed defense. And a heightened level of security was put in place for the Energy Department’s facilities, including nuclear weapons laboratories and nuclear materials storage areas.

The terrorists could revert to form, and strike Americans overseas. The State Department issued a worldwide alert Sunday, warning of the possibility of "strong anti-American sentiment and retaliatory actions against U.S. citizens and interests throughout the world."

"People are scared," said Charles Jones, a presidential historian from Wisconsin. "Never before, at least not since we killed each other in the Civil War, have we had to face the possibility that military engagement will lead directly to domestic casualties."

Those days are over.

Earlier in the week, U.S. authorities had said that the nation faced a "100 percent" chance of new terrorist activity, whether or not military action began.

In a nationally televised speech announcing the attacks, President Bush sought to reassure Americans that "our government is taking strong precautions" against future terrorist attacks and that "all law enforcement and intelligence agencies are working aggressively around America, around the world and around the clock."

Former Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Ridge takes over today as director of the newly created White House Office of Homeland Security and will be responsible for coordinating the anti-terrorism activities of nearly 50 federal agencies and departments and the work of state governments.

Federal, state and local officials who have been on a crisis footing since the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon said Sunday that they have taken unprecedented steps to guard against fresh terrorist attacks and that there are limits to what more can be done.

"You cannot defend at every place, at every time, against every conceivable, imaginable — even unimaginable — terrorist attack," Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld said at a Pentagon news conference.

Phil Coyle, senior adviser at the Center for Defense Information, a Washington, D.C., think tank, said Osama bin Laden or other terrorists are likely to strike again at symbols of American might, or perhaps trains or utilities. All are just the kind of "soft spots" that bin Laden spoke of with derision.

"What happened on Sept. 11 was our own enterprise, our own commerce, our own technologies were turned against us," Coyle said. "These were our aircraft, our office buildings — which represent our success — and they were turned into weapons against us."

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