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Last Updated: Sunday, 21 December, 2003, 21:22 GMT
US terror alert: Full text
Tom Ridge
Mr Ridge's statement was carried live on television

Text of the statement by US Department of Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge on 21 December 2003.

Today the United States Government raised the national threat level from an Elevated to High risk of terrorist attack - or from Code Yellow to Code Orange.

We know from experience that the increased security that is implemented when we raise the threat level, along with increased vigilance, can help disrupt or deter terrorist attacks.

The US intelligence community has received a substantial increase in the volume of threat-related intelligence reports.

These credible sources suggest the possibility of attacks against the homeland around the holiday season and beyond.

The strategic indicators, including al-Qaeda's continued desire to carry out attacks against our homeland, are perhaps greater now than at any point since 11 September.

Information indicates that extremists abroad are anticipating near-term attacks that they believe will rival - or exceed - the scope and impact of those we experienced in New York, at the Pentagon, and in Pennsylvania more than two years ago.

Recent reporting reiterates that al-Qaeda continues to consider using aircraft as a weapon. And they are evaluating procedures both here and abroad to find gaps in our security posture that can be exploited.

Our actions are directed against their efforts.

We have not raised the threat level in this country for six months - but we have raised it before.

Homeland security professionals at all levels of government and in the private sector are hard at work to increase security in your community, state and across the nation.

Americans should know that with this announcement comes action. A specific plan is going into place as we speak. Most importantly, we are sharing appropriately specific information with those who need it and can act upon it.

Already, I have spoken to the nation's governors, homeland security advisors, mayors, and other local officials and asked them to review the security measures they currently have in place, and to increase protections to thwart terrorist attacks. And, they are doing so.

In addition, we have made calls to officials from states and major cities throughout the past week reminding them to be on heightened alert, and now I have called on them to increase their levels of security.

Leaders in the private sector that control resources critical to our country have also been contacted today, and provided with specific measures for them to take to protect those resources.

Where appropriate, we have also shared specific information with foreign countries to enlist their help in combating these terrorist threats.

All federal departments and agencies are implementing action plans in response to the increase in the threat level.

We have enhanced security at our nation's airports and around other transportation systems and infrastructure.

We will re-deploy agents and other resources at our borders to meet the current threat. And, there will be more Coast Guard air and sea patrols off our shores, in our ports, and escorting ships.

Obviously, I will not outline all of the actions that are being taken to protect our citizens. We will not broadcast our plans to the terrorists. But, extensive new protections have been or soon will be put in place all across the country.

I can assure you that your government will stand at the ready, 24 hours a day, to stop terrorism during this holiday season, and beyond.

In addition to knowing that homeland security professionals at all levels are working to keep our communities safe, we ask individual Americans to do a few additional things during this time of heightened alert.

I have said it before - and I am saying it again - homeland security begins at home. Never has that been more true.

Your awareness and vigilance can help tremendously, so please use your common sense and report suspicious packages, vehicles, or activities to local law enforcement.

Go over your family emergency plans, and if you haven't developed one already, do it now.

These kind of precautions are just good sense. And, I can tell you from personal experience that those of us who were affected during hurricane season were glad we had done some advance planning to prepare.

For those travelling during this holiday season, let me thank you in advance for putting up with some inconveniences.

As we learned at Thanksgiving, the additional security measures require some additional patience.

But we did a good job keeping things safe - and not too slow - at our airports and we believe that with your cooperation the same will be true in the coming days and weeks.

Finally - no matter your faith or culture - now is the time of year for important celebrations.

So, I encourage you to continue with your holiday plans. Gather with your family and friends and enjoy the spirit of this season.

There is no doubt that we have a lot to be thankful for - not the least of which the opportunity to live in the greatest country in the world.

It is a country that will not be bent by terror. It is a country that will not be broken by fear. But instead, we are a country blessed with a population marked by goodwill and great resolve.

We will show the terrorists both this holiday season - goodwill toward our fellow men, readiness and resolve to protect our families and our freedom.

US Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge
"America is a country that will not be bent by terror, that will not be broken by fear"

The BBC's Richard Lister
"Americans enter another holiday season preparing for the worse"

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