Tempting terror
target -- July 4

The FBI orders all field offices
to monitor their regions closely

Staff and news reports

WASHINGTON >> The FBI is putting together a major national operation to monitor and protect Fourth of July parades and festivities because of concern that terrorists might attack, officials said yesterday.

The FBI is not reacting to any specific threat or intelligence, the officials said. But the interrogation of detainees at the U.S. naval base in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, has revealed a general interest in the day as a possible target, one official said, commenting on condition of anonymity.

The agency is requiring its 56 field offices to create plans for monitoring events in their regions. The monitoring will probably include several forms of electronic surveillance as well as a heavy presence of field agents, the officials said. In addition, the FBI put out a law enforcement bulletin asking police to be on heightened alert.

"The FBI possesses no specific and credible information indicating a terrorist threat related to the Fourth of July," the bulletin said. "However, the political and cultural significance of this date warrants increased vigilance."

In Hawaii, local FBI officials echoed the bulletin's message.

"This is just an abundance of caution being used," said FBI spokesman Kevin Rickett. "We don't know of any specific threats. We just know that terrorist activity sometimes revolves around significant dates in history.

"We have no specific intelligence regarding July 4th," said Rickett, who declined to give details of security plans by local FBI.

In Washington, officials said that parades and festivities in downtown areas near subways or other mass-transit systems are of special concern. Those activities would be more susceptible to a biological or chemical attack because of the large number of people packed into a small area.

The government has not put out a public warning or advisory for Americans to be more cautious specifically on July 4.

But the Bush administration's Homeland Security office has advised government personnel at many levels that security staffing should remain at normal levels.

"It's important not to reduce the number of guards simply because it's a national holiday," said spokesman Gordon Johndroe. "All sections of government must maintain vigilance. For the government, July 4th will be just another day at the office."

Joe Valiquette, spokesman for the FBI field office in New York, acknowledged the office was creating plans to monitor July 4 events.

"New York has been the media capital of the world for some time and has been targeted for terrorism long before Sept. 11," Valiquette said. "We will not be doing anything that is unusual for major gatherings and holidays in New York, but we will be ready."

Cheryl Mimura, a spokeswoman for the FBI field office in Los Angeles, said agents were still evaluating what events were planned. Local authorities were also being encouraged to take precautions to monitor events.

In Chicago, FBI field office spokesman David Brown said the preparations would keep agents from being caught by surprise.

"We know that terrorists use significant dates and large gatherings as a platform. We want to keep everyone safe," Brown said.

FBI and Justice Department officials have said they believe there are al-Qaida operatives awaiting a chance to conduct more terrorist attacks.

Dozens of public and private precautions have been taken by the government over the past several months. Some have been linked to perceived threats against certain targets -- the Orlando, Fla., water supply, the Brooklyn Bridge, the Liberty Bell.

Officials believe terrorists have made a point of striking near holidays before.

Richard Reid, 28, a British citizen who authorities allege was trained in Afghanistan by the al-Qaida terrorist group, is accused of trying to blow up American Airlines Flight 63 during its trip from Paris to Miami just before Christmas.

Reid was overpowered by passengers and crew. Authorities said his shoes contained plastic explosives.

The FBI also heightened security last Thanksgiving, closely watching parades in New York and Washington. "We are aware that holidays could be targeted," said FBI spokesman Bill Carter. "We are taking precaution based on that."

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