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U.S. Goes to Higher Alert Status

Aired September 10, 2002 - 13:13   ET


KYRA PHILLIPS, CNN ANCHOR: Now, as we are reporting, the government is placing Americans on a high state of alert for possible attacks by terrorists. The system, established in March, is being moved from yellow to orange meaning a greater risk of attack. And we've also been reporting that U.S. warplanes will be patrolling the skies of several big cities tomorrow, including New York, and that is where we find our Jason Carroll. He is there, and has been talking with people at the U.N., and will bring us more on security and the cautions being taken -- Jason.
JASON CARROLL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Kyra, I know now that the rest of the country is now on an orange alert, but it is important to point out that New York City has actually been on an orange alert since September 11. The thinking being that this is the type of city that just simply presents a higher security risk. So in terms of added security, New York City police department has basically been working on that and enacting that for almost a year now.

Special attention will obviously be paid to the United Nations. The FBI alert did say that the United Nations represents a potentially attractive target for terrorists, the reason being a number of dignitaries are going to be here throughout the week for the general assembly. President Bush will be speaking here on Thursday. The NYPD will definitely be focusing much of their attention here, according to police commissioner Ray Kelly. They also will be monitoring the city's national landmarks, religious institutions, as well as the city's bridges and tunnels. We are being told that what they are planning to do is hold random security checks at the various bridges and tunnels throughout the area.

Yesterday, I did have an opportunity to speak with New York City Police Commissioner Ray Kelly, and he said that basically, this city is prepared.


RAY KELLY, POLICE COMMISSIONER, NEW YORK CITY: We've done a lot of training. We'll be doing more training, we have got a lot of training. We've got a lot of equipment. We're working more closely with federal authorities, with other state and local agencies to prepare for another event, if, God forbid, it does happen.


CARROLL: Kelly also points out that New York City safely hosted several large scale events, the NFL concert in Times Square last week, the U.S. Open, as well as the special session of Congress, and he says that his department is ready for tomorrow's ceremonies -- Kyra.

PHILLIPS: Jason, I want to ask you too about the waters. I know you had a chance to talk with Scuba divers on the NYPD Scuba unit. Also, Patty Davis talked about the Coast Guard heightening their training and their activity. What can you tell us about protecting the waters and, of course, boats, et cetera?

CARROLL: Well, what they will be doing is they will be patrolling various harbors and ports throughout the city. They started doing that yesterday. They had been doing it the week before. The way that New York is sort of laid out, much of the ceremonies are going to happening downtown Manhattan. Some of the -- there will be many people near the water, so what they are going to be doing is patrolling some of the various ports, some of the docks in the area, looking for anything that might be suspicious, but again, I want to point out New York City has been on an orange alert for almost a year now. It will be a year tomorrow, and so they have been involved, actively involved, with doing things like that for months.

PHILLIPS: All right, our Jason Carroll there in front of the U.N. in New York, thanks so much, Jason. Once again, we want to remind all of you that we are waiting for that news conference out of the Justice Department.

As soon as it happens, we'll bring it to you. Homeland Security Director Tom Ridge, also FBI Director Robert Mueller, and Attorney General John Ashcroft will be addressing all of us about the security concerns now and leading up to September 11, as we have just learned that the government's terror alert code has been stepped up from yellow to orange, that is elevated to high.


PHILLIPS: Once again, we are waiting for that news conference out of the Justice Department about the terror alert code being stepped up from yellow to orange. We're back in 75 seconds.


PHILLIPS: If you are just tuning in to CNN, we're following breaking news now that -- the news that we've been reporting is that the government is placing Americans on a higher state of alert for possible attacks by terrorists. We have been moved from elevated to high. That is just one step underneath severe, the highest you can go on the homeland security advisory system. We will have more on what this means for all of you as soon as a news conference happens out of the Justice Department. We are waiting for that. We are moments away from that, standing by live. Homeland Security Director Tom Ridge, FBI Director Robert Mueller, also Attorney General John Ashcroft will be speaking to Americans about what that means about our security starting right now as we approach September 11, just one year after those terror attacks on our country.

Along with the heightened state of alert, prior to the September 11 observances, security has been tightened at U.S. airports and in the nation's coastal waters. We've all seen it, we've all felt it, and CNN's Patty Davis is at Washington's Reagan National Airport with more as this terror code alert is bumped up a level -- Patty.

PATTY DAVIS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Kyra, in response to this threat, the Transportation Department, a spokesman saying that the department has put all of its federal air marshals on the job. They are on both domestic and international flights. Now, in addition, U.S. airports are working closely -- more closely than ever with local and state law enforcement, and the federal -- the Transportation Security Administration federal passenger screeners are even on a heightened alert as well. They are looking more closely at passengers, at bags.

Transportation Department also says that the U.S. Coast Guard has heightened its alert status as well. Now, although this threat appears to be at U.S. interests overseas, the Department of Transportation saying that they are taking an abundance of caution here, and they are raising the alert status at airports around the country -- Kyra.

PHILLIPS: Patty, as you talk about all the air marshals being deployed, are you able to talk about this, or is this confidential, how many air marshals, how do they pick the flights, usually what type of flights these air marshals are on?

DAVIS: Well, that is something that is kept very close to the vest by the Transportation Security Department. It has been reported, however, that the number is in the thousands and it continues to grow. But normally, they would be rotated, as any regular shift would, through various flights throughout the week, and things like that, but the Transportation Security Administration, the DOT today saying that all of them are now on duty because of this threat -- Kyra.

PHILLIPS: Patty Davis at Washington's Reagan National Airport. Thank you, Patty. I am being told now that the news conference we're expecting from the Justice Department about this terror alert -- code, rather, being elevated from yellow to orange, now in high alert. It has been pushed to 1:30 Eastern time. That is going to be with Attorney General John Ashcroft, Homeland Security Director Tom Ridge, and also FBI Director Robert Mueller.

If you are concerned about September 11, if you have questions about your security, you are going to want to tune in to this news conference because the fact that the government has moved the terror alert code from yellow to orange is a huge deal. It is just one step under severe. The highest that you can go with regard to these terror alerts. Say tuned, 1:30 Eastern time, we will bring this news conference to you live.

Now, after September 11, it was widely assumed that the nation and its people would be forever changed, and one year later, there are a number of ways to measure that theory.

One is to turn to Frank Newport. He is editor in chief of the Gallup Poll -- hi Frank, great to see you. What did you find? FRANK NEWPORT, EDITOR-IN-CHIEF, GALLUP POLL: Well, Kyra, I don't think that the kind of alert that we are seeing today is going to have a dramatic effect on Americans' feelings about how they live their daily lives.

Now, why do I say that? Well, first of all, we have asked Americans. They have been living under a threat now for one year, of other terrorist attacks. We said, have you changed profoundly the way that you live your daily life, and only 18 percent -- in polling distance, that is pretty small number -- only 18 percent of Americans said they had really changed the way they live their lives.

Now here is a point. When we have asked Americans about how worried they are personally they will be the victim of a terrorist attack -- obviously, these data were collected a few days ago, not after the alert we have just been hearing over the last hour -- we had that big bump up to 58 percent right after September 11, but since then it has been about 1/3 or a little more who say that they are very or somewhat worried, and actually, that is not all that much higher than we had prior to 9/11.

Kyra, a couple of points here. Americans have all along felt that there might be other terrorist attacks. That is why I say I don't think that alert is necessarily going to come as a great surprise to Americans. Eighty percent or even more in our recent polls said they thought there were al Qaeda operatives in the U.S. capable of doing or perpetuating another type of attack.

We had another 60 percent who said it was at least somewhat likely that there would be another attack within the next couple of weeks, so I think all in all, Americans all along have not been sanguine that the U.S. might be able to avoid another type of attack, of the kind, obviously, that we have been warned to by the government today.

One final point. Trust in government? We are going to be hearing from government officials in just a moment to do what is right. That really skyrocketed after 9/11, those were historic highs, about 60 percent.

Back down now, but 46 percent, about half of American said they trust government to do what is right, not a huge numbers, but on a relative basis, that is certainly higher than we had before 9/11. Kyra, that is an update from the people's perspective. Back to you.

PHILLIPS: Well when you were putting this all together, Frank, any surprises?

NEWPORT: Well, the surprise for a lot of people was that not as much had changed over the last year as people, perhaps, had anticipated. One example I didn't mention was religion. Everybody thought Americans became vastly more religious after 9/11, pews were filled and what have you, but all of our indicators show since 9/11, as an example, Americans that have attended church -- and that is what I am showing you here -- has actually been fairly constant, and didn't change all that much after this little uptick right at September 11. So to me, the surprise, Kyra, is that in general, Americans have not changed as much as we might have expected in terms of, at least, their daily lives.

PHILLIPS: Frank Newport, our editor-in-chief at the Gallup Poll. Thanks, Frank.

And if you are just tuning in, the government is placing Americans on higher -- higher state of alert for possible attack of terrorists. We have now -- here in the United States been moved from elevated to high on the Homeland Security Advisory System. That is just one step below the highest that you can go, the severe level.

We are expecting a news conference from the Justice Department. Attorney General John Ashcroft, also Homeland Security Director Tom Ridge, and FBI director Robert Mueller, will be stepping up to the podium to tell all of us, inform all of us what this means for us, and what we need to do to protect ourselves and our families.

Stay tuned. We are going to take a quick break, we'll be right back.


PHILLIPS: If are just tuning in to CNN, breaking news. We have been following it in the past hour and a half or so. Our threat status has been elevated, what does it mean to you? Here is exactly what it means: we have moved from elevated to high alert on the Homeland Security Advisory System. The government's terror alert code is what we are talking about, stepped up from yellow to orange, just one level below severe, the highest that you can go.

The government is placing Americans on this higher state of alert for possible attacks by terrorists. We have confirmed credible threats overseas, not yet here in the United States, but as you can imagine, government officials taking all precautions to protect Americans during this time, this very volatile time as September 11 approaches.

We are going to head to the Pentagon where Barbara Starr is standing by. She has got more on what the military is doing or preparing for this elevated alert, and what steps they are taking to, of course, protect Americans as we approach the 11th -- Barbara.

BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Kyra. Good afternoon. Well, we have learned in the last few minutes here at the Pentagon, as part of what is called prudent planning and precautionary measures against this heightened state of alert, the Pentagon is now considering, no decision has been made, but is considering whether to arm -- put live fire ordinance on those air defense systems that have now been deployed around Washington, as we have told you since late yesterday. These are air defense missile systems on vehicles and shoulder fired. We have them sitting outside the Pentagon this afternoon here, and a number of other locations in Washington, which the Pentagon does not want to publicly discuss. What we are told is up until now, this has been just an exercise. No live fire, no ordinance on any of those launchers, but this afternoon, because of this heightened state of alert, the Pentagon is now actively considering and expects to make a decision in the next several hours about whether to put missiles on those launchers.

Again, no final decision. It is being characterized as prudent planning as part of this heightened state of alert.

Now, as far as the U.S. military goes overseas, we now know that in the Central Command, which is the Persian Gulf region, the -- the area of very heightened tension, all U.S. military facilities in the Central Command, Persian Gulf region have gone to Condition Charlie. This is an elevated state of security precautions at U.S. military bases.

In Bahrain, though, they have gone now from Charlie to Condition Delta, we are told. That is the very highest state of alert. That, of course, is the condition that U.S. military forces found themselves in in the very moments after the attacks on September 11. In other places around the world of less concern, military forces are below that at Condition Bravo.

All of this is being characterized to us, at the moment, as part of prudent planning precautions. They were particularly concerned, we are told, out in Southeast Asia. Of course, the embassy in Jakarta has been closed. They are also very concerned in about Bahrain, and again, that is the area where today U.S. forces are on the highest state of force protection alert -- Kyra.

PHILLIPS: Barbara Starr from the Pentagon. Thank you so much.




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