States Won't Heighten Security For 9-11 Anniversary
By Kavan Peterson, Staff Writer
Following the federal government's lead, most states do not plan to take extra security precautions during the second anniversary of the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon.
Officials at the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) said the national terrorism threat advisory will not be raised from elevated to high risk of an attack during the 9/11 anniversary and states will not be instructed to increase security measures for airports or other sensitive sites.
"The department has been aggressively monitoring terrorism intelligence with our partner agencies and based on an assessment of that intelligence we have no specific information of a heightened risk of an attack," Homeland Security spokesperson Rachel Sunbarger said.
This marks a departure from the one-year anniversary of the terrorist attacks when the national terrorism advisory was raised for the first time from "yellow" to "orange", signifying high risk of an attack, and unprecedented security measures were taken to secure the nation's airports and sensitive landmarks.
States deployed National Guard troops to patrol airports, bridges and critical infrastructure, every U.S. air marshal was deployed, and armed surface-to-air missile launchers were stationed around the nation's capitol.
This year, state security officials said they plan to operate under normal security procedures unless otherwise advised by the federal government.
"We did not change the threat level at the national level so we are not changing it at the Virginia level," John Hager, Virginia's chief homeland security officer said.
Virginia is home to the Pentagon, which was struck by hijacked American Airlines Flight 77, and Washington Dulles International Airport, where the flight originated. Hager said that additional law enforcement or National Guard troops have not been called to beef up security during the 9/11 anniversary.
"We have not taken action to tighten security, but what we've done is send out a general advisory of heightened awareness and tried to get people's attention to recognize that it is the anniversary day and it could be the potential situation for an attack to occur," Hager said.
New York City has been placed on high alert and additional security measures have been taken to protect the city, but the state-wide security advisory will not be raised from "yellow", or elevated, state officials said. Massachusetts, where two of the hijacked flights originated, also does not plan to raise its security alert system.
Two of the September 11 hijackers, Mohamed Atta and Abdulaziz Alomari, caught a commuter flight from Portland, Maine to Boston before hijacking one of the flights that crashed into the World Trade Center. Jeffrey Monroe, director of Portland's Department of Ports and Transportation, said that since the 9/11 attacks the city has increased security measures such as screening all passengers on international ferries for terrorism connections. But no specific measures will be taken on Sept. 11.
"Bottom line is that we're not doing anything special tomorrow that's any different from what we would any other day. We have a pretty set program of how we deal with waterfront and aviation security and we will follow the same protocol whether it's 9/11 or any other day," Monroe said.
State-sanctioned memorials of the 9/11 attacks have also been toned down this year. Flags will be lowered to half-staff nation-wide and President George W. Bush has encouraged the nation to observe a moment of silence at 8:46 a.m. EST, when the first airplane struck the World Trade Center. But few state-wide memorial events are planned.
Most governors have said they will go about their regular business on September 11 or plan to attend local commemoration services.
"We took the lead from Washington that they were not going to do any big public events, but instead the focus will be getting back to business and resuming our normal routines," Hager said.
A few governors, including New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson and Tennessee Gov. Phil Bredesen, have no public events planned on September 11, their aides said.
"This should not be a day of heavy public activity, but a very solemn, quiet day full of respect," said Lydia Lenker, spokesperson for Gov. Phil Bredesen.
Assistant staff writer Bennett Clark contributed to this story.