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Davis defends public warning about California bridges



BURBANK, California (CNN) -- Gov. Gray Davis on Friday defended his decision to reveal an FBI warning about a terrorist threat to major bridges in the West, dismissing grumbling from some federal officials who appeared to suggest he had over-reacted.

"I have no apologies for the decision I made yesterday," Davis said after an economic summit with business leaders in Burbank. "I acted on three written warnings from three federal offices."

Davis noted the threat was fairly specific, warning of attacks on bridges -- mostly suspension types -- during rush hours in coming days in Western states. He said state and national leaders were in the "same difficult situation," balancing the need to keep the public safe against encouraging undue alarm.

Security was beefed up at major bridges in Western states, but no unusual incidents were reported. Davis said he is "confident" the bridges are safe and said he would make a point of traveling them. Traffic, for example, flowed smoothly at San Francisco's picturesque Golden Gate Bridge.

In Washington, some Bush administration officials reacted coolly Friday to Davis' decision to reveal the threat. The Justice Department called the threat "uncorroborated."

VIDEO
California Gov. Gray Davis warns of a threat against four major bridges in the state. CNN's Thelma Gutierrez reports (November 1)

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"Obviously, Governor Davis thought that one thing he could do to enhance the security of people using those bridges was to make a public announcement," Homeland Security Director Tom Ridge said. "We did not encourage him to do so."

President Bush, however, later appeared to defend Davis' decision.

"As a former governor, I didn't particularly care when the federal government tried to tell me how to do my business. When I was the governor of Texas, I was elected by the people of Texas. And I handled my state's business the way I thought was necessary," Bush said. "And I think any governor should be able to conduct their business the way they see fit. I think what should be noticed is we are constantly in touch with state and local authorities as to general and or specific threats."

An FBI press aide told CNN on Friday that the information had been passed on to law enforcement officials in six Western states: Washington, Oregon, Arizona, Nevada, Utah and California.

He stressed that the credibility of the information "could not be determined."

Two federal government officials told CNN that the information that prompted the alert originated with a call to the U.S. Customs Service office in Boston. The officials described the caller as a "reliable source."

The information was passed on to the FBI and prompted an advisory to Western law enforcement officials and governors.

The warning passed on to the states was: "The FBI is in possession of uncorroborated information indicating the possibility of additional terrorist attacks against the United States, specifically the West Coast. Reportedly, unspecified groups are targeting suspension bridges on the West Coast. Six incidents are to take place during rush hour beginning Friday, November 2 and continuing through November 7, 2001."

Attorney General John Ashcroft declined to say whether he supported Davis' decision to reveal the threat, saying only that he felt the FBI took "appropriate" action by sharing the threat information with law enforcement agencies in the relevant states.

"We have processed hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of threats, and we make an assessment of threats," Ashcroft told reporters. At times, he added, the public needs to know about such information.

Davis also defended his decision in an earlier interview with CNN's Larry King.

"I have an obligation to share with the people of this state information that may well be credible to affect their lives," Davis said. "More importantly, I want them to know that we have gone the extra mile to protect them."

Davis dispatched National Guard members to several of the state's bridges to supplement security provided by the California Highway Patrol and the U.S. Coast Guard.

"The best preparation is to let the terrorists know: We know what you're up to. We're ready. It's not going to succeed," he said.

Davis said the bridge threat pertains to the Golden Gate Bridge and Bay Bridge in the San Francisco area, the Vincent Thomas Bridge at the Port of Los Angeles and the Coronado Bridge in San Diego.

In Portland, Oregon, city officials downplayed the threat.

"We do not expect an incident, and there is no specific indication that there will be," said Portland Police Chief Mark Kroeker.

CNN National Correspondent Susan Candiotti in Washington contributed to this report.



 
 
 
 



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