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U.S. Raises Terror Alert Level, Tightens Security

Washington, D.C., was one of many U.S. cities to deploy extra security in subway stations on Thursday after the attacks on London's transit system.
Larry Abramson, NPR
Washington, D.C., was one of many U.S. cities to deploy extra security in subway stations on Thursday after the attacks on London's transit system.

The Bush administration raised the terror alert to code orange on Thursday for mass transit systems -- but not for airlines. The government's Homeland Security chief, however, said the public should not avoid using trains and buses.

At a news conference, Secretary of Homeland Security Michael Chertoff said the raised terror alert will apply to regional and inner-city passenger trains, subway systems, light rail and metropolitan bus routes.

That decision was made out of precaution -- rather than in response to a threat.

"Obviously we're concerned about the possibility of a copycat attack," Chertoff said.

U.S. officials say they have no specific information that suggests this type of attack is being planned in the U.S.

Even before the alert level was raised, officials in New York City, Boston, Chicago, and Atlanta boosted their security profile in response to the London attacks. They added armed officers and bomb-sniffing dogs to guard against attacks.

About 29 million people take commuter trains and subways daily in the United States, with the New York City area accounting for about a third of the total, said Alan Pisarski, a Washington-based national transportation policy analyst.

New York City added uniformed police officers to every rush-hour subway train. Even the ferries had armed escorts.

In Washington, D.C., officials placed bomb-sniffing dogs and more-heavily armed metro police officers around the city's transit system.

Security at foreign embassies in Washington was also increased, particularly around the British Embassy, said State Department spokesman Sean McCormack.

Amtrak also added more security officers and canine teams to its nationwide train system.

The stepped up security extended beyond mass transit. Chicago police patrolled the Chicago River to check bridges, and the U.S. Coast Guard was patrolling Boston Harbor.

Chertoff said his department had also asked local officials to take additional security steps -- such as increasing video surveillance and inspecting trash receptacles.

The terror alert had not been raised in the United States since last August, when the Homeland Security Department increased it to orange for financial institutions in the Washington, D.C., and New York areas.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Copyright 2022 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Libby Lewis
Libby Lewis is an award-winning reporter on the National Desk whose pieces on issues of law, society, criminal justice, the military and social policy can be heard on Morning Edition, All Things Considered, Day to Day, Weekend Edition Saturday, and other NPR shows.