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FBI Issues Warning of Terrorist Threat to VA Hospitals

FBI Issues Warning of Terrorist Threat to VA Hospitals

Posted - Aug. 27, 2004 at 3:53 p.m.



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Jed Boal ReportingDr. Ronald Gebhart, George E. Wahlen VA Medical Center Chief of Staff: “If you see something that looks out of the ordinary, let the police know and we will take it from there."

VA Hospitals are named as potential terrorist targets, but you won't see big changes in Salt Lake. Al-Qaida may try to attack Veterans Affairs Hospitals rather than heavily guarded military installations; that's the warning from the FBI and the Homeland Security Department in a new terrorism bulletin.

The VA hospital here says it ramped up security after the 9-11 attacks and for the Olympics. The warning is cautionary and should not scare veterans away.

The George E. Wahlen VA Medical Center is one of 163 veterans hospitals across the country and federal authorities say some have reported suspicious activity. US authorities say there is no credible intelligence on a specific threat at any of them.

Dr. Ronald Gebhart: “The information we have received is not specific in nature. There is no imminent threat to any of our hospitals or facilities."

The hospital has a lot of traffic and administrators are telling patients, employees and the public to be watchful. Veterans we spoke with said they never really noticed the security, but always felt safe and are not too worried.

The hospitals could be considered attractive targets because of the tie with the military and the perception that an attack could be more successful than an attack on a traditional military target with tighter security.

Dr. Ronald Gebhart: “At this time the security level has not increased, and the information did not mandate that we increase the security level. But what we are reminding everyone to pay attention and be careful."

Indicators of possible terrorist surveillance include: unusual interest in security, opperatives disguised as "panhandlers, shoe shiners, food or flower vendors", and discreet use of video cameras.

US officials have repeatedly warned that Al-Qaida is likely to try an attack inside the US before the November 2nd election.

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