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U.S. airports increase security, but threat level stays the same

July 01, 2007|Richard B. Schmitt | Times Staff Writer

WASHINGTON — U.S. airports began tightening security Saturday after the second incident in two days in Britain, although officials said there were no plans to raise the color-coded terrorism threat level.

"At this point, I have seen no specific, credible information suggesting that this latest incident is connected to a threat to the homeland," Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff said in a written statement.

"We have no plans at this time to change the national threat level."

Chertoff noted that U.S. airports have been operating under an elevated "orange" threat status since last fall.

Still, he said, "in an abundance of caution during this holiday period," the agency ordered increased security measures at U.S. airports, as well as mass transit and other transportation facilities.

The moves were expected to include the posting of more Transportation Security Administration agents outside airline terminals and tightened security checks by state and local police.

"Some of these measures will be visible; others will not," Chertoff said. "We encourage the public to go about their business and recreational plans as usual, but remain vigilant to the events happening in your environment and report any suspicious activities to authorities."

Officials at Southern California airports also said they were taking additional security measures.

"Out of an abundance of caution, we have increased our deployment of uniformed patrol and K-9 officers" at LAX, Ontario International Airport, and Van Nuys and Palmdale regional airports, according to a statement issued by Los Angeles World Airports.

Robert Molina, operations supervisor at Bob Hope Airport in Burbank, said extra precautions were taken Friday after the discovery in central London of two cars packed with explosives. He declined to give details on the precautions.

John Wayne Airport, in Orange County, has increased the number of uniformed officers in and around the facility, information officer Jenny Wedge said.

President Bush was briefed on the developments in Britain "before, during and after" a bike ride at his family's summer home in Kennebunkport, Maine, spokesman Tony Snow said.

"The most you're going to see right now is some inconvenience, some increased inconvenience of airline passengers, more likely at large airports than small," Snow said of the heightened security measures.

The FBI said it was monitoring the situation, but referred questions to British investigators.

"We will continue to assess the situation, but at this time we have no intelligence that there is a credible threat in the U.S. based on these events," spokesman Richard Kolko said. "The FBI will assist our British partners, as we have always done in the past."

richard.schmitt@latimes.com

Times staff writer Myron Levin in Los Angeles contributed to this report.

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