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US Orders Lowering of Terrorist Attack Alert Status - 2002-09-24

The Bush administration has lowered its nationwide terrorist alert. The threat level had been raised prior to the anniversary of the September 11 attacks because of concerns about possible new terrorism.

The Bush administration lowered the alert from a "high risk" of terrorist attack to an "elevated risk" of attack.

President Bush upped the alert two weeks ago because intelligence officials warned of a "high risk" of violence surrounding the anniversary of last year's September 11 attacks.

Those warnings included threats that terrorists linked with al-Qaida might attack U.S. facilities in Southeast Asia. Several embassies in the region were closed during the anniversary of the attacks.

Attorney General John Ashcroft says some of those threats have now passed with arrests overseas and in the United States.

"We have been having some success in our pursuit of those individuals who have been associated with the international terrorist movement, but I just would again note that we consider the risk to still be an elevated risk. It's a very serious risk," he said.

Since the threat warning went up, Pakistan has arrested a man suspected of helping plan last year's attacks and U.S. officials arrested six men in New York suspected of training at an al-Qaida camp in Afghanistan.

While Attorney General Ashcroft said those arrests contributed to lowering the threat level, he urged Americans to stay alert as the nation still faces significant risks of attack.

"We still think there is an elevated level of risk. We still believe that al-Qaida is an international network, that it still has the reach that makes it global in scope and nature, that we know from them that when we work hard we disrupt their activities, and when citizens are alert, we disrupt their activities," he said.

White House spokesman Ari Fleischer says the president lowered the threat alert from the second-highest level because law enforcement officials can not properly respond to the advisories unless they are modified as perceived threats change.