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NY State Under Enhanced Security - 2003-03-19

New York Governor George Pataki has put into effect a heightened security plan, Operation NYShield, across the state and along the border with Canada.

New York City has already been on the highest level of alert since the September 11, 2001 attack on the city. Now Mr. Pataki says an enhanced security program, Operation NYShield, is in effect. The governor says 20 state agencies have been preparing for Operation NYShield for months.

Stressing that no specific threats have been made against New York, Mr. Pataki says it is obvious that the city's many landmarks, including the Statue of Liberty and the Wall Street financial district, are potential terrorist targets on what he calls "the eve of war" with Iraq

Mr. Pataki refused to reveal specifics, but he said more than 3000 national guard troops have been activated across the state, including along the border with Canada, and that state and local police have added to security at transportation centers, houses of worship, landmarks, and tourist attractions.

The governor says the state is prepared for any act of violence that may occur. Within the last day, he says, equipment to deal with hazardous materials has been distributed to every hospital in New York State. Mr. Pataki says environmental monitors are already on the job to detect any biological or chemical agents.

"Our civil support team that has the ability has been activated again and deployed to go out to monitor to see what can be done to see if there are any indications of any biological or chemical concerns," he explained. "Beyond that, I do not want to comment other than to say that we are doing everything that we can to be able to try to detect and prevent and, if God forbid something happens, respond to as quickly to any chemical or biological threat."

Mr. Pataki urged New Yorkers to continue their lives as usual but to remain vigilant.

Governors along the entire northeastern seaboard of the United States are issuing similar alerts. Tunnels and bridges are under increasing surveillance as are nuclear power plants and government buildings.