Ridge steps up homeland security

On the brink of an almost certain U.S. attack on Iraq, Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge has ordered America's terrorist alert raised to orange and increased security at ports and land borders, airports, critical infrastructures and across the Internet.

Known as Operation Liberty Shield, Ridge said the Homeland Security Department is ratcheting up security, increasing public health preparedness and making sure that the federal response can be deployed quickly. It has assigned one emergency response team to the nation's capital in the event of a terrorist attack.

"The intelligence community believes that terrorists will attempt multiple attacks against U.S. and coalition targets worldwide in the event of a U.S.-led military campaign against Saddam Hussein," Ridge said in a statement March 17, moments after President Bush gave Saddam Hussein 48 hours to get out of Iraq or face certain attack by the United States.

Ridge said he has spoken with the nation's governors and asked them to deploy the National Guard and additional police at critical locations throughout their states.

Among the department's actions:

* Increased security at U.S. ports and waterways with armed guards on every "high interest vessel" arriving or departing from U.S. ports.

* Temporary flight restrictions over New York City and Washington, D.C.

* Increased border screening of people and vehicles by Bureau of Customs and Border Protection agents.

* Security zones around critical infrastructure sites in key ports.

* Monitoring the Internet for signs of a potential terrorist attack.

* Increased disease surveillance and food security.

* Increased security at railroads, chemical plants and nuclear facilities.

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