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Sources: U.S. to raise terror alert level

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- The Homeland Security Office on Tuesday is raising its nationwide terror state of alert for the first time since March, putting it at the orange level, signifying a high risk of terror attacks, sources told CNN.

CNN's John King reported that CIA Director George Tenet briefed President Bush late Monday about a significant uptick in "chatter" that could be traced to al Qaeda. Intelligence sources use the word chatter to describe information gathered through various sources. No specific threat has been disclosed.

Terror warnings system: Color-coded system 

The action is being taken on the eve of the first anniversary of the September 11 terrorist attacks that killed more than 3,000 people.

The warning system has five levels, starting with green -- the lowest alert level -- and followed by blue, yellow, orange and red. The latter is the highest alert level, indicating a severe threat.

Each code triggers specific actions by federal agencies and state and local governments.

A congressional source said that some staffers on Capitol Hill received a briefing Monday telling them that the nation's threat level would be raised.

The United States has been on a yellow alert, which indicates a significant risk of terror attacks. Under an orange alert, security officials are to take additional precautions at public events, prepare to work at an alternate site, and coordinate security efforts with armed forces or law enforcement agencies.

Attorney General John Ashcroft and Homeland Security Director Tom Ridge will discuss the move at a 1:15 p.m. news conference.

White House spokesman Ari Fleischer said at his daily news briefing that "the American people need to live their lives. That's the best thing the American people can do to send a signal to anybody who would do us harm."

The highest alert level, one step above orange, is red, indicating the most severe threat.

New York City has been on high alert since the September 11 attacks. Top-level police sources said they have no information that would lead them to step-up the city's alert level to red.

Transportation Department spokesman Leonardo Alcivar, in response to the increased threat level, said "The TSA has fully deployed all air marshals domestically and internationally."

In addition, all airports are in close contact with state and local law enforcement. All TSA personnel at airports are at "heightened alert status," taking a closer look at passengers and baggage.

Alcivar says the U.S. Coast Guard has taken similar steps to heighten its alert status. It is this official's understanding that the threat does not involve any U.S. targets.




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