Skip to main content /US /US

White House urges 'joyous' but vigilant Fourth

Chicago began the July 4th celebration early with a Wednesday night fireworks display.
Chicago began the July 4th celebration early with a Wednesday night fireworks display.  

From Kelly Wallace
CNN Washington Bureau

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Combat air patrols will fly "randomly" over several American cities and additional workers will staff the nation's homeland security center this Independence Day, senior administration officials said Wednesday.

Those are just two steps the federal government is taking to ensure the safety of Americans during the patriotic holiday, the officials said. President Bush said Tuesday that Americans should "celebrate heartily" and know that "the government is doing everything we can to make the homeland secure."

"People should be joyous in their celebration and celebrate the fact that we are fortunate enough to be Americans," said Bush, who will help lead a parade in West Virginia and then return to the White House to watch the capital's traditional fireworks display.

Officials are tightening security in many U.S. cities after receiving warnings about possible terrorist activity around July Fourth. CNN's Patty Davis reports (July 1)

Play video
In March, Homeland Security Director Tom Ridge unveiled this color-coded threat advisory system for the United States.
Suspicious? What's that? Osama bin Laden: Dead or alive? 
Extra air patrols over major cities on July 4 
Attack on America
 CNN NewsPass Video 
Agencies reportedly got hijack tips in 1998
Intelligence intercept led to Buffalo suspects
Report cites warnings before 9/11
Timeline: Who Knew What and When?
Interactive: Terror Investigation
Terror Warnings System
Most wanted terrorists
What looks suspicious?
In-Depth: America Remembers
In-Depth: Terror on Tape
In-Depth: How prepared is your city?
On the Scene: Barbara Starr: Al Qaeda hunt expands?
On the Scene: Peter Bergen: Getting al Qaeda to talk

White House press secretary Ari Fleischer called these moves "precautionary," repeating that the United States does not have any specific or credible information that a July 4 terrorist attack is in the works.

"There is nothing specific about anything that we are aware of," Fleischer said. "There is just a general level of concern that we've seen on other larger gatherings. When the American people gather in large numbers, it can become something of a target for people who want to do us harm."

Internet interest in 2 stadiums

In the FBI's weekly intelligence bulletin, dated Wednesday and sent out to state and local law enforcement offices, the agency said the U.S. government has no "credible threats about specific attacks," according to a senior administration official who has a copy of it.

But the bulletin added, "There are reports of heightened operational activity by terrorists around the world," according to the official.

The bulletin said people with possible ties to terror groups have visited Web sites about two big stadiums in the nation's heartland.

One is the Edward Jones Dome in St. Louis, the home of the National Football League's St. Louis Rams. Officials there said no events were scheduled at the stadium this week.

The other stadium noted in the bulletin is the RCA Dome in Indianapolis, which is home to the NFL's Indianapolis Colts. There are no events scheduled there this week.

"The FBI has received information [that individuals] with ties to international terrorist groups have viewed and gathered information on stadiums in the U.S. and Europe," a U.S. government source told CNN.

The Web site they allegedly accessed is "These individuals are known to have accessed images of the Edward Jones Dome and RCA Dome," the source said.

The FBI noted "the political and cultural significance" of July Fourth "warrants increased vigilance," but said the nation's threat level is not being raised because there are no "credible threats about specific attacks."

That same message was conveyed in FBI bulletins dated June 19 and June 26, the senior official said.

'Beefed-up actions'

Fleischer said there would be a "substantial series of beefed-up actions" across the country July 4. Those include:

  • More staffers assigned to the administration's 24-hour Homeland Security Coordination Center to monitor the roughly 2,000 "medium to large" Independence Day events across the country. (Office of Homeland Security)
  • Combat air patrols flying over "several" American cities "randomly."
  • An enhanced local police and FBI presence throughout the country.
  • The FBI beefing up its 24-hour emergency control center.
  • Senior U.S. officials said the homeland security center has already established lines of communication and points of contact with officials at each Independence Day events taking place in the United States and is in touch with homeland security advisers in each state.

    Host Barry Bostwick and a fife and drum band perform the opening number of the National Mall show during Wednesday night's rehearsal.
    Host Barry Bostwick and a fife and drum band perform the opening number of the National Mall show during Wednesday night's rehearsal.  

    "We'll be in touch ... We'll be monitoring," one senior administration official said.

    In the meantime, the Bush administration has repeatedly told Americans to be vigilant but "to celebrate, to enjoy the holiday."

    Fleischer said: "As we are hearing from people in law enforcement, they are saying, 'Leave the worrying to us.' They will be out there. They will be vigilant."

    Bush has invited a number of staffers from White House offices to join him to watch the fireworks display Thursday night. Among them are employees from the White House Military Office, the National Security Council, the Council for Environmental Quality, and the White House Historical Society.

    Cabinet secretaries and deputy Cabinet secretaries also have been invited, Fleischer said.




    Back to the top