Terror alert ups security tempo

Terror alert ups security tempo

Federal security agencies will rev up their counterterror activities after today's boost in the terrorism threat level from yellow'elevated'to orange'high, officials said. The FBI also alerted 17,000 state and local law enforcement agencies.

The Homeland Security Department announced immediate increased surveillance by Transportation Security Administration screeners and federal air marshals. The inspection forces of the Customs Service, Immigration and Naturalization Service, and Agriculture Department will question travelers and inspect travel documents more thoroughly.

One official, speaking on background, said those agencies were advised not to concern themselves so much with delays to travelers as they tighten border restrictions. The official said that specialists in counterterror activities, including those in the IT realm, are on call to respond to attacks. The Border Patrol's Special Response and Border Search and Rescue teams, which monitor areas between ports of entry, are on standby, and the Federal Emergency Management Agency's on-call national emergency response team is on alert status to collect and disseminate threat intelligence.

The Coast Guard is increasing its maritime patrols and helping state, local and other federal agencies to tighten port and waterway security.

Homeland secretary Tom Ridge, during a press conference this afternoon, urged citizens to watch the department's Web site, at www.dhs.gov. Speaking to families, he said, 'It's probably not a bad idea to sit down and arrange some kind of contact plan. ' I think it would make family members a lot more comfortable if they knew they were able to get in touch with one another in the event something happened.'

During the press conference, FBI director Robert S. Mueller III said joint terrorism task forces 'have been working 24 hours a day following up information.'

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