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Thursday November 1 10:01 PM ET

California Governor Says Bridges May Be Threatened

By Andrew Quinn

SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) - California Gov. Gray Davis (news - web sites) ordered security tightened around the state's major bridges on Thursday -- including San Francisco's famed Golden Gate Bridge -- saying there was a ``credible'' threat they could be attacked starting as early as Friday.

Federal and state law enforcement officials quickly backtracked, however, saying the warning was very general and there was no need for specific public concern.

Nevertheless, the governor's warning marked one of the first times since the Sept. 11 hijack assaults on New York and Washington that officials named specific targets for potential attack -- putting the so-far left alone U.S. West Coast on notice that it could be hit.

``We want the public to know if there is a potential threat to their safety and we want them to know all the steps, in a general way, that we're taking to protect their safety,'' Davis told reporters after reports of the threats sent nerves jangling up and down the West Coast.

``I am very confident that those bridges are safe. They've never been so well protected.''

Davis set alarm bells ringing Thursday when, during a news conference in Los Angeles, he announced he had received what was described as credible information ``that between Nov. 2 (Friday) and Nov. 7 (next Wednesday) at rush hour there will be an effort to blow up one of those bridges.''

Responding to a reporter's question, he identified the spans under threat as San Francisco's Golden Gate Bridge and Bay Bridge, the Vincent Thomas Bridge at the port of Los Angeles and the Coronado Bridge in San Diego.

Almost immediately, however, officials began playing down the reported threat and Davis admitted that no specific threat had been received and that he had named those bridges because they were the state's most prominent.

``If I didn't make that statement and God forbid something happens, I'd be kicking myself ... You have to err on the side of caution you have to do everything you can to protect people and then if the threat turns out to be false, fine,'' he said later on CNN's ``Larry King'' interview program, defending his actions.

City officials in San Francisco -- which has hundreds of thousands of commuters crossing its two bridges daily -- stressed there was no need for alarm and said the warning had been misinterpreted.

``It got a little out of hand,'' Board of Supervisors President Tom Ammiano said. ``The message again is one of assurance. San Francisco is going to remain on high alert.''

The Justice Department (news - web sites) released a copy of the warning conveyed by the FBI (news - web sites)'s counter-terrorism division citing ''uncorroborated information'' that unspecified groups might target suspension bridges on the West Coast.

``Six incidents are to take place during rush hour beginning Friday, November 2 and continuing through November 7, 2001,'' the FBI warning said, adding that the FBI was attempting to verify the validity of the report.

California Highway Patrol officials said security would be tight with additional patrols by the National Guard, the Highway Patrol, the Coast Guard and other security agencies. But they stressed that traffic would be allowed to move across the spans as normal, and there was no need for undue public concern.

``I encourage all the people to use the bridges,'' Highway Patrol Commissioner Spike Helmick said, adding that ''extraordinary efforts'' had been made to ensure public safety.

``There is not a specific threat against California bridges. The information the governor got, and what he talked, to was a potential threat on bridges in the Western states.''

In Seattle, officials said police would step up patrols of the harbors and bridges that surround the city, although they also played down the potential threat.

``I personally do not see this as a significant risk based on the source of the information and the nature of the threats that are being received,'' FBI Special Agent Charles Mandigo, who called the information ``third-hand.''


The Vincent Thomas Bridge, completed in 1963, spans the main channel of the Los Angeles Harbor in San Pedro, and is just over one mile (1.6 km) long. The soaring two-mile (3.2-km) long Coronado Bridge joins the island of Coronado with San Diego and was opened in 1969.

The Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco, a major world landmark, was completed in 1937 and spans the Golden Gate strait that connects San Francisco Bay with the Pacific Ocean.

The Bay Bridge, opened in 1936, is the longest steel high-level bridge in the world. It is 4 1/2 miles (6.4 km) long, carries 280,000 vehicles a day and links San Francisco with Oakland.

Justice Department spokeswoman Mindy Tucker said the warning was one of many that FBI officials had disseminated around the country since Sept. 11, and there was no specific reason to believe it particularly credible.

``We don't consider this information to be as credible as the information we shared on Monday'' when authorities issued a general warning of possible fresh attacks against the United States, Tucker said.


Davis, who on Thursday named former FBI Agent George Vinson as his special adviser on state security, also said he was issuing new instructions to health officials following a spate of anthrax attacks on the East Coast.

He added that while he believed the bridges would remain safe, it would be up to individual commuters to decide whether they wanted to use the spans during the period in question.

``The best preparation is to let the terrorists know we know what you're up to, we're ready, it's not going to succeed,'' Davis said.

A law enforcement source, who asked not to be identified, told Reuters that that it would be relatively easy for a terrorist to blow up a bridge with a car bomb or truck filled with explosives.

``How do you stop these folks? They don't care about living beyond the actual act,'' the source said.

-- seeker (searching@low.and.high), November 01, 2001


I absolutely swear I'm going to hold my breath-really, I am.....

-- FutureShock (gray@matter.think), November 02, 2001.

``How do you stop these folks? They don't care about living beyond the actual act,''

This is what makes my skin crawl.

Howdy, everyone. It's nice to be at a semi-sane place ;)

-- Peg (not my complete address) (, November 02, 2001.

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