The Bush administration has raised the country’s terror alert level to orange, its second highest level, amid fears that a wave of terrorist attacks overseas will spread to the United States.
Department of Homeland Security officials initially provided few specific reasons for yesterday’s alert, which will set in motion a series of security measures around the US government. It also advises cities, states and businesses to take extra security measures.
The alert was raised after top administration and counter-terrorism officials reviewed intelligence reports suggesting domestic terrorist attacks were possible.
The decision to raise the terror alert warning came after the homeland security council met at the White House and presented President George Bush with the recommendation for an increase, a senior administration official said.
The new level, orange, marks a high threat of terrorist attacks. It is the second highest level on the five-colour scale. The previous level, yellow, marked an elevated risk.
Federal law-enforcement officials said that among the intelligence picked up recently were two electronic transmissions that discussed the possibility of an attack on New York, Washington, Boston and more broadly the US coastlines.
The officials said there were doubts about the credibility of the threats and stressed that they were not the driving factors in the decision to raise the threat level.
Counter-terrorism officials had previously described the bulk of intelligence as pointing toward attacks overseas.
Officials believe al-Qaida has launched a series of strikes, loosely co-coordinated by the organisation’s top leadership, aimed at demonstrating that al-Qaida is still viable. They believe attacks in Morocco and Saudi are part of this.
The Bush administration has raised the terror alert level one notch three times previously, setting off a flurry of increased security measures by cities, states and businesses. Each time, the level was lowered back to yellow after a few weeks.
The last time it was raised was during the Iraq war. It went down after most hostilities ended.