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Bush scales back threat alert

Arrest of terror suspects cited

From John King (CNN Washington)

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CNN's Jeanne Meserve says U.S. President George W. Bush orders the homeland security system down to "elevated." (September 24)
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WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Citing disruptions in the al Qaeda terrorist network, the Bush administration Tuesday scaled back the government's terrorist threat assessment to "elevated" from its previous level of "high."

The decision, approved by President Bush, means the country's color-coded alert status will drop from orange back to yellow, the midpoint of the scale, after two weeks of the higher threat alert that kicked in around the anniversary of the September 11 terror attacks.

The decision, according to Attorney General John Ashcroft and Homefront Security Adviser Tom Ridge, was "based on a review of intelligence and an assessment of threats by the intelligence community, as well as the passing of the anniversary of the September 11 terrorist attacks and the disruption of potential terrorist operations in the United States and abroad.

"Contributing to this decision were the recent arrests of six men in suburban Buffalo who are alleged to have provided material support to al Qaeda," they said. "In addition, senior al Qaeda operatives have been captured in Pakistan and other al Qaeda members have been apprehended in Singapore and Yemen. These actions have disrupted terrorist operations by neutralizing certain senior al Qaeda leadership and removing other terrorist planners and operatives."

Bush signed off on a recommendation to go to yellow alert status after receiving his morning intelligence briefing, administration officials said.

Administration sources stressed that even at yellow alert, the government believes there is an elevated or significant risk of terrorist attack.

"The lowering of the threat level is not a signal to government, law enforcement or citizens that the danger of a terrorist attack is passed," Ashcroft and Ridge said in a joint statement.

"Detained al Qaeda operatives have informed U.S. intelligence and law enforcement officials that al Qaeda will wait until it believes Americans are less vigilant and less prepared before it will strike again."

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