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Susan Candiotti: Seaport 'a healthy target for terrorists'

CNN's Susan Candiotti

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On the Scene
Susan Candiotti
Acts of terror
Miami (Florida)

MIAMI, Florida -- Security is being increased at airports, borders and ports as the nation stands at "Code Orange," the second-highest alert level for terrorist threats. The upgrade from "Code Yellow," or elevated status, followed warnings from the federal government that al Qaida may be plotting attacks on America during the holidays. The new designation indicates a high risk.

CNN anchor Soledad O'Brien spoke to CNN's Susan Candiotti, reporting from Watson Island in Miami, Florida, early Monday about what the seaport is doing to improve security.

CANDIOTTI: Good morning, Soledad. You know, it was just a few weeks ago that Homeland Security Chief Tom Ridge was here in Miami, talking about improving security, and offering another $2 million in federal grants to do that. The seaport of Miami is one of the busiest in the world.

Of course, you can see the cruise ships behind me. Four million passengers come through here each year. And in Port Everglades in Ft. Lauderdale, they said that they set a record yesterday for handling the single highest number of cruise ship passengers in one day -- 15,000. So, they're doing closer inspection of all those cruise ship passengers this day, as well as their luggage.

In addition to that, you're talking about 9 million tons of cargo that comes through this port annually. All of these factors making this a potentially healthy target for terrorists.

Now, since September 11, of course, they've taken additional steps to make these ports safer. And when there is a heightened state of security, they also do other things. The bureau of customs and board of protection [are] doing things along with the coast guard; state and other local authorities [are] stepping up patrols to the water here; working longer hours; carrying out more operations to inspect cargo.

They even have remote subs and dive teams to look under the ships, as well. And whenever there is a cruise ship in port, they don't allow any general traffic to come through. It used to be when a cruise ship would pull out you could pull alongside the boat and wave to people. No more ever since September the 11th.

So these, along with other measures, Soledad, are just some of the steps that authorities are taking to make sure that this seaport is safe.

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