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San Diego officials urge vigilance as 9/11 anniversary nears

Authorities warn residents to be alert for signs of terrorism and to report suspicious behavior.

August 25, 2011|By Tony Perry, Los Angeles Times

Reporting from San Diego -- With the 10th anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks approaching, San Diego political and law enforcement officials launched a campaign Wednesday to warn residents to look for signs of terrorist planning.

"Al Qaeda and others have always had a fascination with significant dates in history," Keith Slotter, special agent in charge of the San Diego office of the FBI, told a news conference.

Public service announcements are scheduled for local television stations warning residents to be on the alert and to contact police if they see anything suspicious.

A locally produced six-minute video titled "The Eight Signs of Terrorism" is posted on a county government website: http://www.ReadySanDiego.org.

San Diego's proximity to the U.S.-Mexico border and the presence of numerous military bases require an extra level of vigilance, said San Diego Mayor Jerry Sanders, a former police chief.

The eight warning signs were compiled by the San Diego Joint Terrorism Task Force and the federal Department of Homeland Security. The department has begun a national campaign, "If You See Something, Say Something."

Among the signs of possible terrorism: People appearing to watch potential targets to gain information and people impersonating law enforcement officers or letter carriers.

Other signs include people using cash for large purchases; people buying large quantities of products such as fertilizer, weapons or uniforms; and people appearing to rehearse an attack or moving equipment or supplies into position.

"When in doubt, call law enforcement," San Diego County Sheriff William Gore said. "We'll handle it.... We're not targeting any particular group, we're looking at suspicious activity regardless of who is doing it."

San Diego Police Chief William Lansdowne recalled the police and firefighters who dashed into the second building of the Twin Towers when it was struck by a plane.

"Remember what happened on 9/11 and show that level of courage," he said.

Three of the hijackers who flew a plane into the Pentagon had lived in San Diego. Two of the three had taken flying lessons in San Diego.

In the wake of the Sept. 11 attacks, there was criticism about lack of coordination and sharing of information between federal and local law enforcement and U.S. intelligence agencies.

Without directly mentioning that criticism, officials at Wednesday's news conference said that coordination has improved.

"We've never been more prepared," Lansdowne said.

tony.perry@latimes.com

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