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CNN LIVE EVENT/SPECIAL

U.S. On High Alert for 9/11

Aired September 11, 2002 - 07:03   ET

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


PAULA ZAHN, CNN ANCHOR: On this day of remembrance, though, Americans are being cautioned to be on high alert for more terror. Citing "credible threats," the U.S. government stepped up the country's alert level from yellow to orange.
Let's go to national security correspondent, David Ensor, who joins us now live from Washington to explain what all that means.

Good morning -- David.

DAVID ENSOR, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Paula.

Well, there are basically three different sources of intelligence that led to the president's decision to put the nation on high alert. First and foremost, new information coming from a senior al Qaeda operative, we are told, who is in foreign hands, has been in those hands for a couple of months now, but has only in the last couple of days started to talk.

Now, "The New York Times" is calling this man Omar al-Faruk (ph). We haven't been able to confirm his name. They are saying he is a Kuwaiti.

In any case, he is the head of Southeastern Asia operations for al Qaeda, and he is telling a story to his interrogators of plans to attack a number of American facilities in that part of the world -- embassies, military installations -- possibly with suicide attacks. In any case, quite specific information, which has been corroborated with other sources, which has been the primary reason that the president has made this move.

There is also intelligence information leading to the suspicion that there might be suicide attacks or bombing attacks in the Middle East region; some sources on that.

And then, there's a general sense, Paula, intelligence coming from all sorts of different sources that low-level al Qaeda operatives would like to mark this day with some sort of an attack, perhaps something not very organized, perhaps nothing major, but perhaps more than one of them. That also has led to the sense that it was necessary to put the country on high alert.

ZAHN: It certainly begs the question, though: How reliable these reports are, and if there is any fear that these guys are saying this just to put Americans in a state of panic or paranoia? ENSOR: Well, that's right. And in the case of the one senior al Qaeda operative, who I first mentioned, who is the new source of information, officials say they are quite confident that what he has told them is correct. They have corroborated his information about attacks to American facilities in Southeast Asia with other intelligence information. They are convinced he is telling them the truth.

On the Middle East matter, less sure.

And on the possibility of attacks in the United States, they have no specific evidence that any such attack is contemplated. They just hear a lot of chatter, a lot of discussion about the possibility of attacks anywhere in the world that might mark this day.

So, an abundance of caution on the part of the U.S. government, going on high alert -- Paula.

ZAHN: David, we're going to leave it there. Thanks so much.

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