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Alert System for Terror Threats Urged

Security: California will consider a multiple-stage framework, like that used in the energy crisis.

November 09, 2001|TIM REITERMAN | TIMES STAFF WRITER

SAN FRANCISCO — California will explore a multiple-stage alert system like the one used during the energy crisis to provide cities with guidance about the seriousness of terrorist threat warnings, Gov. Gray Davis said Thursday.

The idea emerged from the governor's private meeting with half a dozen Bay Area mayors on Treasure Island to discuss terrorism issues, including security on the Bay Bridge and the Golden Gate and Davis' controversial announcement of a threat against the spans.

Davis said Richmond Mayor Rosemary Corbin suggested that staged alerts would provide guidance to local officials on the credibility of a threat and the precautions they should take.

"It's a good idea and gets us all on the same page," the governor said.

Details of the three-stage alert system remain to be worked out, he said.

A week ago Davis announced that federal authorities had received information that four California bridges were the targets of terrorist threats, and he beefed up security with the National Guard and law enforcement officers. Some politicians criticized the governor for alarming the public, and the FBI later determined that the threat was not credible.

But after the meeting, the mayors--including Willie Brown of San Francisco--praised Davis' decision.

"I would err on the [side of the] public's right to know," Berkeley Mayor Shirley Dean told reporters. "We agreed that the governor had no choice but to issue the warning he did."

In response to a question, Davis said the additional security in California for bridges, water systems, power grids and other facilities is costing $400,000 to $1 million a day.

The governor said he would maintain heightened security on the state's bridges indefinitely but would reserve judgment on whether to scale it back. He noted that even before the recent warning, the FBI considered the Golden Gate Bridge a prime target for terrorists.

"These bridges are safe and have never been safer," he said. "I have no reservations about what I did and would do it again."

Davis introduced his new security advisor, George Vinson, a longtime FBI agent with anti-terrorism experience. Vinson, who will serve as a liaison among federal, local and state agencies, said his connections within the FBI will be "invaluable" in keeping the state informed about terrorist threats and evaluating them.

Accompanied by his anti-terrorism team, Davis also visited the Golden Gate Bridge to thank National Guard troops and California Highway Patrol officers stationed there.

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