U.S. won't raise terror threat level after Spanish blasts
Official: Intelligence 'chatter' lower than in December
WASHINGTON (CNN) -- This week's deadly train bombings in Spain will not lead to a rise in the U.S. color-coded terror threat alert system, a Department of Homeland Security spokesman said Friday.
"Based on the current intelligence, we have no specific indicators that terrorist groups are considering such an attack in the U.S. in the near term," said department spokesman Brian Roehrkasse.
An intelligence official said the level of "chatter" in the system is lower than it was in late December, when the threat level was raised from yellow to orange, the second highest rank on a five-tier scale.
At the time, the department said intelligence "chatter" suggested terrorists might attempt attacks in the United States during the holiday period, which led to anti-terrorism measures that included closing airspace over New York; Las Vegas, Nevada; and other cities.
Nevertheless, the department issued a bulletin Thursday night to the transportation sector, law enforcement, and homeland security advisers directing them to be on a higher state of alert.
The bulletin told them to increase surveillance if necessary and keep an eye out for unattended backpacks.
Authorities said backpacks loaded with explosives were used in the Madrid attacks, according to the Spanish news agency EFE. Ten bombs wrecked four trains in three stations Thursday in the Spanish capital, killing nearly 200 people and wounding more than 1,400 others.
Homeland Security Undersecretary Asa Hutchinson said Thursday the department regularly reviewed data and intelligence and would conduct a deeper probe as a result of the Madrid strikes, according to Reuters. (Full story)
An intelligence official said responsibility for the train attacks in Spain still has not been determined, and the FBI will provide whatever assistance Spanish investigators request.
Spanish officials were quick to blame the Basque separatist group ETA, but callers who claimed to speak on behalf of the organization telephoned Basque media outlets to deny any involvement in the attacks. (Full story)
The Al Qaeda terrorist network is also a suspect in the attacks. Spain has been a key ally of the United States, particularly in the war with Iraq, and al Qaeda has previously threatened any country so allied.