Preparing for Code Orange

Published 12:00 am Monday, December 29, 2003

Even as many Americans were packing Christmas presents into the back of their cars, or were picking their airline tickets up at the reservation counter, the United States Department of Homeland Security issued an alert, raising the national threat level of potential terrorist attacks from an elevated risk (code yellow) to a high level of risk (code orange).

According to

Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge, threat indicators are "perhaps greater now than at any point" since Sept. 11, 2001. Ridge made the statement Sunday, when the level was raised to orange.

The changes in color-coded threat levels were implemented in March of 2002, and since then, the nation as a whole has been on orange alert

five times including this one, with no known incidents each time. The first occurred in September of 2002, when it was suspected that there might be terrorist activity on the anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks. In February of 2003, the orange alert was related to Muslim holy days and in March of 2003, the orange alert arose from potential reaction to the United States' military

entrance in Iraq. In May, the last time orange alert was announced until now, the raised threat was related to al-Qaida bombings in Saudi Arabia and Morocco that killed 75 people.

In Alabama, the potential threat is not being ignored. In a press release from Gov. Bob Riley, the governor announced that the state would be taking precautionary measures.

"I do not know of a specific threat to Alabama at this time," Riley said. "However, we have enough general information about terrorist areas of interest that we need to take the precautionary steps of increasing security at our major airports and other potential high risk targets."

Norman Arnold, with the Alabama National Guard, told the Star-News they have already seen some increased activity.

"The governor has authorized and asked that we order to duty 30 personnel who will augment security for the four largest airports in the state," said Arnold. "They are being assembled today (Monday) and will be in place by tonight. We are going to do as much as we can to respond to or prevent any type of terrorist activity."