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 Home > News & Policies > September 2002

For Immediate Release
Attorney General
September 24, 2002

Threat Level Returns to "Elevated"
Joint Statement of Attorney General John Ashcroft and Homeland Security Adviser Tom Ridge

WASHINGTON, D.C. - Based on a review of intelligence and an assessment of threats by the intelligence community, as well as the passing of the anniversary of the September 11 terrorist attacks and the disruption of potential terrorist operations in the United States and abroad, the Attorney General in consultation with the Homeland Security Council has made the decision to return the threat level to an elevated risk of terrorist attack, or "yellow" level.

Homeland Security Advisory System
Click here to learn more about the Homeland Security Advisory System.

Contributing to this decision were the recent arrests of six men in suburban Buffalo who are alleged to have provided material support to al Qaeda. In addition, senior al Qaeda operatives have been captured in Pakistan and other al Qaeda members have been apprehended in Singapore and Yemen. These actions have disrupted terrorist operations by neutralizing certain senior al Qaeda leadership and removing other terrorist planners and operatives.

The lowering of the threat level is not a signal to government, law enforcement or citizens that the danger of a terrorist attack is passed. Returning to the elevated level of risk is only an indication that some of the extra protective measures enacted by government and the private sector may be reduced for the time being. We emphasize that the United States and its interests are still at a significant risk of terrorist attack. Detained al Qaeda operatives have informed U.S. intelligence and law enforcement officials that al Qaeda will wait until it believes Americans are less vigilant and less prepared before it will strike again. For this reason, and for the safety and security of our nation, Americans must continue to be defiant and alert; undaunted and prepared to respond to a significant risk of terrorist attacks. The American people serve as our strongest defense against terrorism. We ask all citizens to be aware of any suspicious activity and to report it to local authorities or the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

The nation's Homeland Security Advisory System provides a national framework to inform and facilitate the decisions of federal, state and local government as well as private individuals at home and at work. The system indicates protective measures commensurate with the current threat level to be taken to reduce the nation's vulnerability to terrorist attack. At the elevated risk level, significant security measures will remain in place at all federal agencies. Examples of these include:

  • A focus on critical facilities and vulnerabilities, with security and surveillance tailored to meet specific intelligence reports and security needs.
  • Continued increased surveillance.
  • Random inspections of passenger vehicles entering parking lots and restricted parking as necessary.
  • Continued coordination of emergency plans with state and federal jurisdictions and private sector partners.
  • One hundred percent identification check of personnel entering facilities. During duty hours, employees must personally escort visitors and remain responsible for their whereabouts for the duration of their visit.
  • Screening procedures remain in place for incoming office mail and other deliverables.

We thank all federal, state and local government and law enforcement officials, representatives of the private sector, and individual citizens for your patience and resolve. Know that your efforts are making a difference. And know, as well, that through our collective efforts, we send a signal to those who would do us harm that America stands alert, united, and prepared.