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Threat info declines but still high

National alert level could be lowered

National alert level could be lowered

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WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Commercial aviation could remain on high terror alert awhile longer, but U.S. officials said Tuesday the threat level for the rest of the nation could be lowered soon to yellow, or "elevated."

The officials said no decision has been made.

The level of threat information and so-called intelligence chatter has fallen off a bit but remains high, the officials said.

The difference in the information is that it is less specific than it was, they said.

For example, there was specific intelligence regarding certain flight numbers and intelligence regarding a possible attack on New Year's Eve. Now, the intelligence is more general.

As for aviation, U.S. officials said they are still concerned about flights out of London heading to the United States.

They are also concerned, but to a lesser extent, about flights out of Mexico and Paris.

For the sixth consecutive day Tuesday, British Airways Flight 223 from London to Washington was either delayed or canceled.

Tuesday's flight was delayed two hours; the previous three days it was delayed 3.5 hours. The flight was canceled Thursday and Friday and escorted to Washington by fighter jets Wednesday.

There was intelligence suggesting a holiday attack involving planes out of Paris and Mexico, but now that the holidays have passed, so has some of the anxiety.

U.S. officials do not rule out further actions, such as flight cancellations or delays or military escorts in the future.

A Delta Air Lines flight from to Paris to Cincinnati was delayed more than an hour Tuesday after French officials became concerned about wiring in a woman's heated jacket, U.S. government sources said. The plane later landed safely at Cincinnati's airport. (Full story)

Six Air France flights were canceled December 24 and 25 because of security concerns.

Investigators searching for a man who failed to appear for the Christmas Eve Air France flight to Los Angeles, California, still have not found him.

Government sources told CNN Tuesday that the missing man could be a trained pilot with ties to al Qaeda. (Full story)

Meanwhile, the Department of Homeland Security announced Tuesday that it has selected three companies to continue research into ways to thwart shoulder-fired missile attacks on U.S. commercial aircraft. (Full story)

In a related development Tuesday, the State Department said it would like Brazil to alter its new process of fingerprinting and photographing visitors from the United States.

The South American country started the practice January 1 to retaliate against a similar system launched Monday in the United States.

"We have told the Brazilians that we think that these are measures that provide tremendous inconvenience to travelers and that they need to be changed," State Department spokesman Richard Boucher said.

Brazilian federal Judge Julier Sebastiao da Silva, furious at the Bush administration's decision to fingerprint and photograph millions of visitors entering the United States, ordered Brazil's authorities do the same to U.S. citizens starting on New Year's Day.

The US-VISIT program began January 5 and applies to any visitor, including Brazilians, who are required to have visa to enter the United States. Visitors from most European nations are excluded. (Full story)

Boucher said Tuesday that the US-VISIT program delayed visitors by only seconds, but Brazil's system "resulted in very lengthy delays -- more than a nine-hour delay for some U.S. citizens at Rio's international airport yesterday."

He also pointed out that "Brazil is requiring photographs and also 10 fingerprints done by ink from U.S. citizens."

The US-VISIT program uses clean digital images of just two index fingers.

Boucher, while complaining that Brazil's system needs changes, still maintains that country has the right to decide its entry and exit procedures.

CNN's Kelli Arena and Larry Shaughnessy contributed to this story.


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