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CNN BREAKING NEWS

National Landmarks Go On High Alert

Aired May 20, 2003 - 15:50   ET

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

KYRA PHILLIPS, CNN ANCHOR: Mike Brooks, our law enforcement analyst and also correspondent for CNN, joins us via Richmond, California.
Mike, let's immediately talk about first what's going to happen with regard to our security as a nation. Asa Hutchinson mentioning the police situation, needing to review security measures, paying attention at large public gatherings.

How will they go about implementing additional levels of security? Are they going to call in reservists or are they going to have everybody on call 24/7? How will it work?

MIKE BROOKS, CNN LAW ENFORCEMENT ANALYST: Well, many departments, Kyra, both large and small across the country, have done this before.

We were at a yellow level. We just went to orange. We just came back down. Now we're going back up to orange again. So I think that they are well prepared. I just spoke just a few moments ago, before coming on the air, with the metropolitan police department in Washington who probably has more icons than any other city in the country and has done this and prepared for this in protection of their critical infrastructures for quite some time.

They said that they are in a meeting with the chief right now to see if they're going to go up to a level two of a three-tiered response, which basically means that they would just give special attention to many of the infrastructures and icons within the city, as well as opening up the joint operation center there in Washington.

Now one of the things that Asa Hutchinson said that I think is important, I think needs to be driven home to our viewers, coming -- speaking again as a former counterterrorism detective with the metropolitan police department assigned to the FBI, and that is: vigilance is a deterrent to terrorist activity.

And as I said last hour, that sometimes here in the United States we get complacent. And people need to understand that vigilance is important. Now they may say , "What is the going from yellow to orange to yellow to orange mean to me?" What it means to them is, when they go to a sporting event, when they are out in a shopping mall, when they're on their way to and from work or out walking the dog, if they see something that they feel, that their gut tells them is not in place, that doesn't seem right to them, that they should call the police. They should not feel that they are bothering the police and police have told me all along that they should -- that people should call the police whenever they feel something is out of place. They want to know about it. So let the police make the decision what to do.

So, again, I think a vigilance (ph) alert is the word of the day. And we talk a lot about the United States since 9/11. And I think again we have been in full disclosure mode, and that's the way the government has been. And I think many people are glad of that because many times they thought, well, the government never tells us anything. They're telling you now to be vigilant and viewers need to take heed of that warning -- Kyra.

PHILLIPS: All right. Our Mike Brooks live there in the San Francisco area. You can see the Golden Gate Bridge behind him there.

We are live at all-- a number of venues, the Golden Gate Bridge, via KRON, our San Francisco affiliate there in California. Also live from LAX via KTLA. We are monitoring the airport there. And also the space needle in Seattle, Washington, via King Television. All important areas to keep our eyes on as the terror -- or the threat level, rather, is raised from elevated to high.

Once again, we'll review exactly what that means to you. Matter of fact, we have a graphic now. We can tell you quickly, as we move into the orange level, with the risk of terrorist attacks, according to Asa Hutchinson, the undersecretary for homeland security, "coordinate security efforts with federal, state and local law enforcement agencies or other armed forces organizations." That is already under way -- under way according to the undersecretary.

Also taking additional precautions at public events and consider alternative venues or cancellation. The undersecretary coming forward saying, Don't change your plans, however, for Memorial Day. Continue to leave -- live your life as you normally would right now, but take precautions. Call with anything suspicious you may encounter.

Also prepare to execute emergency plans, including moving to an alternate site and dispersing appropriate personnel.

Finally when talking about the level being raised here, restrict threatened facility access to essential personnel. Once again, a review of what that means to you as this threat level is raised.

We're going to go back over to Miles.

MILE O'BRIEN, CNN ANCHOR: CNN's John King at the White House, where the president obviously involved in making that decision today, making the final decision to raise the security threat level to orange, or high. And the thing we've been talking about, we've been showing these pictures, John, of these icons, not necessarily hardened targets, but icons like the Golden Gate Bridge or the Space Needle or Los Angeles International Airport.

But the point that has been made throughout the afternoon is the concern about so-called soft targets, which we might very well not have a camera pointed toward and that, really, as we said, is the rub right now, isn't it?

JOHN KING, CNN SR. WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: It certainly is, Miles.

We are heading into the Memorial Day weekend and one of the things Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge speaks of in this statement that we obtained a short time ago is that the fact there will be so many public gatherings on such a weekend. There are picnics, there are ceremonies at veterans cemeteries and other cemeteries across the country.

There are ballgames, whether it be a Little League game or a professional baseball game. There are the NBA Playoffs are under way. There are number of quote/unquote, soft targets that the government is worried about, and that will be the top priority of state and local and federal law enforcement officials, with a good deal of help from federal agencies, whether it be the coast guard patrolling harbors or federal law enforcement agencies, the Secret Service gets involved in this and all of this coordinated, of course, by the new Department of Homeland Security.

We are told, Miles, that the president received final word this decision at 1:50 p.m. this afternoon, and that was immediately after his homeland security council met here at the White House. Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge, Attorney General John Ashcroft is among those on hand. The president had reviewed much of the intelligence used to make this decision when he sat down first with the CIA director and then with the FBI director here at the White House. The consensus was that although there is nothing about a specific target, a specific date, even a specific method of a possible terrorist attack that there was enough intelligence suggesting a possible new wave of attacks here in the United States that the administration should go back up to orange, perhaps more behind the scenes on how this decision was made in a short time. Ari Fleischer will be here, live on CNN -- Miles.

O'BRIEN: The word two all of us is to press on and to keep our eyes open. Somewhat of a mixed message, but nevertheless, press on. John King at the White House -- Kyra.

PHILLIPS: Well how has it affected the New York Stock Exchange? Let's check in with Rhonda Schaffler. Did we see any change in the numbers, Rhonda?

RHONDA SCHAFFLER, CNNfn CORRESPONDENT: Kyra, we did indeed. In fact, when news of the terror alert being raised first began circulating, we did see stocks hit session lows.

What's pretty remarkable is that stocks could actually closed higher as investors for now shrug off that news, at least in the stock market. You can see a rebound here the last couple of minutes. But we are seeing investors nervous enough to go into the bond market. We're seeing across-the-board buying in government bonds and notes. They're considered safe-haven investments in times of uncertainty -- Kyra.

PHILLIPS: All right. Rhonda Schaffler live from the New York Stock Exchange.

We'll, of course, continue to follow this story, miles, as we move from an elevated level to high level. We'll continue our ongoing coverage. We have a number of correspondents across the globe from the White House.

O'BRIEN: Yes. Let's check -- we have Mike Brooks still with us. Mike, we'll just check in with you for one more final word, and I'm always left with this kind of mixed message: carry on about your normal lives and, yet, you know, there are some things to worry about.

What should people take away from that?

BROOKS: Well, I think, you know, before last time it went to a high threat level, Miles, you know, there was the whole rub with the, you know, plastic and duct tape and people were really kind of, you know, didn't know what to do. But I think the government has been fairly plain talking, telling you what to do this time. You know, vigilance is the watch word of the day. We've had this before around holidays and people should go about their business.

You know, back when I was teaching terrorism, we tell people, if you don't go about your business then you're letting the terrorists win. So I think people who go about their everyday jobs, their recreation activities, as John King was saying, baseball games, NBA Playoffs, they can go about these things as long as they remain vigilant and aware of their surroundings -- Miles.

O'BRIEN: CNN's Mike Brooks on the shores of San Francisco Bay, as we look at a picture -- live pictures there of Chicago, San Francisco, Los Angeles and Washington.

And those are good words to remember. If we do change what we do, the terrorists do, in fact, win.

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