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Ridge: Americans Should Feel Safe Going to Polls Tuesday


U.S. Secretary of Homeland Security Tom Ridge says Americans should feel safe going to the polls on Tuesday, despite Friday's broadcast statement by al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden. Mr. Ridge said the videotape contains no specific threat information related to the election day. But he insisted that security officials are taking steps to enhance America's overall security level.

Secretary Ridge told reporters Saturday that he has no plans, for now, to raise the nation's threat warning from its current level of "yellow" or "elevated."

However, he said his department reserves the right to raise the alert level to "orange," or "high," if and when new information warrants doing so.

Mr. Ridge spoke one day after the Arabic television network al-Jazeera broadcast the latest videotaped statement by Osama bin Laden. In the tape, the al-Qaida leader made no overt threats, but said the United States can prevent future attacks by changing its policies in the Middle East.

Secretary Ridge said Americans should feel safe casting their ballots in Tuesday's general election.

"There is no specific intelligence that targets election day, polling places and the like," he said.

At the same briefing, U.S. counterterrorism official John Brennan said the government is trying to determine whether there is a correlation between bin Laden's tape and another video broadcast this past week on ABC television.

In that tape, a man who identifies himself as Assam the American threatens terrorist attacks and says, in English, that "blood will run in the streets of America."

Mr. Brennan, who heads the Terrorist Threat Integration Center says authorities are trying to get any information they can from the two tapes.

"What we're trying to do from an intelligence perspective is to analyze these tapes and make sure that we understand what they mean, what their significance is in the broader context of the intelligence that we have - and then insure that we are able to provide that intelligence to the Department of Homeland Security, to the FBI and to others," he said.

Secretary Ridge insisted that federal, state and local officials are taking terrorist threats seriously and that thanks to their efforts, the nation is sater than ever before.

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