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U.S. Forces in Bahrain, Qatar on Highest State of Alert

Aired October 24, 2000 - 2:30 p.m. ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

NATALIE ALLEN, CNN ANCHOR: The president's national security team assembled at the White House today. Among the topics, a threat and to be -- said to be specific against U.S. forces in Persian Gulf.

For more, let's check in with CNN national security correspondent David Ensor in Washington -- David.

DAVID ENSOR, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: Well, Natalie, this is the first time since 1988 that U.S. military forces in that particular part of the region have been put on this very highest state of alert. And not long ago, the Pentagon spokesman, Adm. Quigley, told us why.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REAR ADM. CRAIG QUIGLEY, PENTAGON SPOKESMAN: We did that as we do with all such continuous assessments based on a receipt of credible -- I'm sorry -- specific threats against U.S. forces in those two areas. But in some cases, and this one in particular, the credibility of the threat information was simply unknown to us. But given the circumstances, the recent attack on the Cole and the generally higher level of threat throughout that region, we thought it was simply the prudent thing to do.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ENSOR: The troops that have been put on this higher state of alert, the highest possible level, are just over 1,100 forces that are in the countries of Bahrain and Qatar, where the threat was perceived to be the most serious, the one that they had to react to.

Officials are downplaying reports that they might consider some kind of preemptive action against terrorists, saying they don't know quite know who they'd hit at this point. However, they say that ever since the USS Cole was hit in Yemen, they have been suspicious that they would find a connection to the organization headed by the fugitive Saudi financier Osama bin Laden. And they have found nothing so far to change their view that he is a very likely suspect, his organization has to be on the list -- Natalie.

ALLEN: David, any idea how long they'll remain at this status?

ENSOR: They are not saying at this point and it is likely that it will be some days at least. It was taken as a precautionary measure, officials say, because not because they have a specific threat of day, time and place, but the level of threats, the level of information they're getting from communications intercepts and other intelligence that they're gathering has just reached a point where they felt it was the prudent thing to do, Natalie.

ALLEN: All right, David Ensor in Washington.

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