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Holidays, Religoius Observances Figure in New US Terrorism Alert

The White House is issuing a new terrorist warning to Americans.

Officials say they have evidence indicating terrorists could be planning further attacks. They say the nation will remain on a heightened state of alert.

Homeland Security Director Tom Ridge said Monday that intelligence and law enforcement agencies have new information related to possible terrorist activity. "The information we have does not point to any specific target either in America or abroad," he said. "And it does not outline any specific type of attack. However, the analysts who review this information believe the quantity and level of threats are above the norm."

Mr. Ridge said the information comes from multiple sources and is considered credible. He said it is a reminder that America remains a nation at war. "Now obviously, the further removed we get from September 11, I think, the natural tendency is to let down our guard," he said. Unfortunately, we cannot do that."

During an appearance before White House reporters, the Homeland Security Director said the new warning is not related to the weekend suicide bombings in Israel. But he did say there is a link to the calendar, noting the coming weeks include observances important to many religions. He said terrorists have tried to conduct attacks in the past at this time of year.

One example is December of 1999," Mr. Ridge said. "Authorities in Jordan, Canada and the United States uncovered and prevented plans for a series of attacks related to the dawn of the new millennium. Those plans were thwarted when intelligence learned about them and law enforcement arrested the suspected terrorists."

Mr. Ridge said Americans should not forgo holiday activities because of the terrorist threat. But he said they should be more vigilant, more aware of their surroundings, and should quickly report anything suspicious to law enforcement authorities.