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State of high alert extended 'indefinitely'

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- The week-long state of high alert announced by the government Monday has been extended "indefinitely," Homeland Security director Tom Ridge said Friday.

Asked if the non-specific threat that sparked the alert was still thought to involve only this week, he said, "We're going to keep everybody on the Monday alert -- that attentiveness -- indefinitely."

Ridge acknowledged that officials may not be able to identify and detain all terrorists here and abroad. "The world has changed since September 11," he said.

CNN's Susan Candiotti reports on public officials' recent threat announcements and the reactions they've caused (November 2)

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Still, he urged Americans to "Be alert, and go about the business of being in America."

Asked to comment, President Bush told reporters during a question-and-answer session at the White House with Nigeria's president that Ridge's comment does not mean Americans must stop living their normal lives.

"I wasn't rattled," he said, referring to when he threw the ceremonial first pitch in Yankee Stadium before the third game of the World Series Tuesday. His brief pitching appearance was done under the watchful eyes of more than 2,000 security personnel stationed in the stands and on nearby Bronx rooftops.

"Most Americans understand there is a new day here in America," Bush said. "We're hardening assets, we're on the hunt and we're going to chase them down."

But, he continued, "This is not an instant gratification war. This is a struggle for freedom and liberty, a struggle for America and America's children to live in peace."

Streamlining communication

As part of the effort to track down terrorists, Ridge told reporters he is working to help government agencies consolidate their intelligence databases.

Information from the Immigration and Naturalization Service, the State Department and the FBI is being collected and will be housed in the office of the attorney general, Ridge said.

Immigration policies are being strengthened, restrictions on student visas are being tightened, and federal officials are working with their Canadian and Mexican counterparts "to improve border security, facilitate commerce, bring greater harmony to immigration and customs policies," Ridge said.

The former Republican governor of Pennsylvania said he meets regularly with his Homeland Security Council and Democratic and Republican policy leaders to discuss measures taken to counter terrorism.

This week, he added, he met with airline leaders "to discuss mutual safety and economic concerns" and with leaders of pharmaceutical companies "who pledged to share their facilities, products and scientific genius to meet America's needs."

Ridge said a group from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is now working regularly with postal officials to help detect anthrax and decontaminate anthrax-tainted facilities.


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