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HomeNewsArchivesORANGE ALERT TRIGGERS HEIGHTENED V.I. SECURITY

ORANGE ALERT TRIGGERS HEIGHTENED V.I. SECURITY

May 20, 2003 – V.I. emergency and security management authorities implemented standard procedures throughout the territory on Tuesday as the nation for the fourth time went on "orange alert," signifying "high risk," the second-highest level of homeland security preparedness.
In a Government House release, Gov. Charles W. Turnbull asked residents "to observe the recommended precautions and to remain on the alert and to adhere to public safety measures during this time of heightened security."
He said the territory's emergency managers would implement the standard operating procedures for the "high risk" threat level. The federal Department of Homeland Security's recommended procedures include, he said:
– Coordinating security efforts of federal and local law-enforcement agencies, the National Guard and/or other security forces.
– Taking additional precautions at public events and possibly considering alternate venues or cancellations.
– Gearing up to execute contingency procedures if necessary, such as moving to alternate sites or dispersing the work force.
– Restricting access to potentially threatened facilities to essential personnel.
The decision to raise the national alert level was made Tuesday at a White House meeting of the president's Homeland Security Council to discuss "threat and intelligence information." President Bush was not at the meeting but quickly signed off on the decision, which is binding and takes immediate effect, a White House spokesman said.
The first time the alert was raised from yellow, or "elevated risk," was a year after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. The second time was last Feb. 7, after intelligence reports indicated increased likelihood that Al-Qaeda terrorists might try to attack Americans at home or abroad toward the end of the Hajj, the Muslim religious period that ended in mid-February. Soon after that period was over, the alert was returned to yellow.
It was raised to orange again on March 17, when President Bush gave Saddam Hussein 48 hours to get out of Iraq or face military action by the United States and its coalition partners. It remained at orange during Operation Iraqi Freedom and went back to yellow on April 16.
In the Virgin Islands, stepped-up security focuses on the territory's air and sea ports and on the Hovensa refinery, the largest in the Western Hemisphere.
When the February orange alert was declared, one of the most visible responses locally was the setup of a Port Authority checkpoint at the entrance to Cyril E. King Airport. Such a checkpoint was indicated for the St. Thomas airport but not for Henry E. Rohlsen Airport on St. Croix, because it has a different security designation, authorities said. However, additional security patrols were implemented at Rohlsen and authorities advised the traveling public to allow extra time for check-in at both airports.
According to national media reports, Tuesday's action was taken because U.S. intelligence officials believe the Al-Qaeda terrorist network has entered an "operational period worldwide" and that recent suicide bombings in Saudi Arabia and Morocco might be precursors to attacks within the United States. U.S. defense officials said the information came from intercepted communications of suspected terrorists.
Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge said he had no "credible, specific information" about targets or methods of attack. But he said in a statement that "weapons of mass destruction, including those containing chemical, biological or radiological agents or materials, cannot be discounted."
Ridge also said that "threats may also emanate from other anti-U.S. terrorist groups, regional extremist organizations, and ad hoc groups or disgruntled individuals not connected to existing terrorist organizations or state sponsors of terrorism."

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