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Terror Alert Level Raised

Terror Alert Level Raised

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WASHINGTON (AP) -- The Bush administration raised the national terror alert level to orange Tuesday amid fears a wave of terrorist attacks overseas will spread to the United States.

Department of Homeland Security officials initially provided few specific reasons for the alert, which will set in motion a series of security measures around the federal government. It also advises cities, states and businesses to take extra security measures.

The alert was raised after top administration and counterterrorism officials reviewed intelligence reports suggesting domestic terrorist attacks were possible.

The decision to raise the terror alert warning came after President Bush's homeland security council met at the White House and presented the president with the recommendation for an increase, a senior administration official said on condition of anonymity.

The new level, orange, marks a high threat of terrorist attacks. It's the fourth-highest level on the five-color scale. The previous level, yellow, marked an elevated risk.

Counterterrorism officials had previously described the bulk of the terrorism intelligence as pointing toward attacks overseas.

Officials believe al-Qaida has launched a series of strikes, loosely coordinated by the organization's top leadership, aimed at demonstrating al Qaida is still viable. They believe attacks in Morocco and Saudi are part of this.

The Bush administration has raised the terror alert level one notch three times previously, setting off a flurry of increased security measures by cities, states and businesses. Each time, the level was lowered back to yellow after a few weeks.

During the alerts, no domestic attacks were apparently attempted, leading some to question whether the orange alerts do anything more than frighten the public and cost taxpayer dollars, particularly in parts of the country where terrorist attacks are unlikely.

However, Homeland Security officials say heightened security can stop attacks without authorities realizing it -- a would-be terrorist may pass on striking a target when he sees the extra guards.

The last time it was raised was during the Iraq war. It went down after most hostilities ended.

The alert system is designed to guide law enforcement agencies, businesses and the general public in their security decisions, and it is mostly up to local governments and companies to decide what measures to enact.

It is driven by world events and information gathered by U.S. intelligence agencies, such as monitored communications between terrorists. This "chatter" sometimes spikes before an attack.

Officials say they want to take the alert level to orange only after receiving specific, credible information that attacks are planned.

(Copyright 2003 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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