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Jeanne Meserve: Cities respond differently to terror alert

CNN's Jeanne Meserve
CNN's Jeanne Meserve

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WASHINGTON (CNN) -- From New York to San Francisco, police were increasing patrols in sensitive areas Wednesday in response to the nation's elevated terror threat, boosting their presence in front of bridges and tunnels, power plants and train stations for the fourth time since the September 11, 2001, attacks.

President Bush authorized raising the threat level from elevated to high on Tuesday, based on intelligence about threats to U.S. targets. CNN's Jeanne Meserve is covering the story and filed this report:

MESERVE: As to the specificity of the threat, Asa Hutchinson, the undersecretary of the Department of Homeland Security, says there is more specificity in terms of the threats, but not in terms of potential targets.

We do know from U.S. Defense officials that the information about a potential attack inside the U.S. came from intercepted communications of suspected terrorists, one source indicating the possibility of multiple attacks.

Another factor: the level of so-called intelligence chatter, intercepted messages from suspected terrorists or terrorist sympathizers. One knowledgeable U.S. official characterized some of that as "reasonably spooky stuff."

Local and state government leaders have responded differently, depending how they perceive the risk. New York City, which has been on a higher state of alert consistently since 9/11, nonetheless has increased patrols of subways, bridges and other sensitive areas; also of crowded events. In California, too, officials say there will be more policing around critical infrastructure, like the Golden Gate Bridge. California's governor, Gray Davis, says all of this is costing a lot of money, but there is no choice but to keep people safe.

As for federal steps, the Federal Aviation Administration says some flight restrictions are going into effect today, including renewed flight restrictions over sporting events, and some classes of small airplanes that had gotten waivers to fly in the 15-mile restricted zone around Washington will no longer be able to do so.

But I should mention that some states and localities say they do not perceive any great risk to them, and they do not plan any additional security steps despite the step-up in the threat alert level.

Officials want people to go about their daily lives as we would otherwise. The line has always been that to restrict ourselves would be to allow the terrorists to win. But law enforcement and federal officials are urging everyone to be vigilant to anything suspicious and to report anything if you see it.


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