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CNN BREAKING NEWS

Homeland Security Office Increasing Threat Level

Aired September 10, 2002 - 11:49   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


DARYN KAGAN, CNN ANCHOR: We are just getting word now into CNN about a certain level of terrorism alert. We want to bring in our Jeanne Meserve, who is in Washington with the latest from office of homeland defense.
Jeanne, what do you have?

JEANNE MESERVE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: I can tell you, Daryn, that since March, the U.S. has been on the level yellow, which stands for significant risk of terrorist attack.

CNN's Kelli Arena has heard from government sources that this is going to be elevated to next level. That would be orange. That is a high risk of terrorist attack. First, we are told that there is a conversation about this going on right now, but it is a done deal. This level will be raised. There will be a formal announcement sometime later this afternoon from Attorney General John Ashcroft, who is the one charged with changing this threat level. There also will be input from the office of homeland security.

We do not know why they are making this decision to elevate the threat level. As I mentioned, it has been at yellow since March. As of yesterday, we were told by law enforcement sources throughout the government that there was no specific and credible threat of any terrorist action related to the anniversary of the September 11th attacks. Clearly new information of some kind has come in. We do not know yet exactly what it is.

But once again, for the first time, this threat level being raised from yellow to orange sometime today.

Daryn, back to you.

KAGAN: So, Jeanne, we don't know exactly why, but do we know what that means? A lot of people have been critical of this color coding of alert, saying that it is confusing to the general public. Does it mean we're all supposed to stay home? Is it just a message to law enforcement situations? What does it mean?

MESERVE: It calls for a higher level of vigilance for everybody, from the individual citizen to law enforcement. You are absolutely correct that there has been a lack of specificity about exactly what this is going to mean at the local level and at the State Department -- at the state level.

Each state, each locality is supposed to have ready some sort of graduated system that roughly corresponds to this, and at last check, many of them did not. In fact, yesterday a survey was released by the national -- excuse me, the U.S. Conference of Mayors, indicating that only some mayors integrated local threat system to federal one. But clearly, this is a message to everyone, everywhere, that there must be some kind of threat out there, though we don't know exactly what it is, which calls for an increased level of vigilance. It is going to be customized throughout the country, different places. There will be different critical infrastructures which will receive renewed attention -- Daryn.

KAGAN: As you said, we expect an official announcement later this afternoon.

MESERVE: Right, as this system was set up back in March, it was decided that Attorney General John Ashcroft would be the one to make formal announcements, if there were a change in the threat level. We are told he will make the announcement this afternoon. We do also expect some input from office of homeland security. We expect that would be homeland security director Tom Ridge -- Daryn.

KAGAN: We will look for that announcement of course, carry it live right here on CNN. Jeanne Meserve, here on CNN, bringing us this breaking news that the level of terrorism threat was at yellow. Now it is put to orange, at high.

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