U.S. Raising Terror Alert for Transit

WASHINGTON (AP) -- The Bush administration is raising the terror alert to code orange for mass transit in the wake of London explosions, U.S. officials said Thursday.

Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff planned to make the announcement at a press conference. The officials spoke on the condition of anonymity because the announcement had not yet been made.

The designation will apply to subway systems and light rail and select bus routes, officials said. The nation's overall terror alert will remain at yellow, or elevated. One official said authorities were particularly concerned about Washington, Boston, New York, Miami and Chicago.

While there was no evidence that the U.S. transportation network was being targeted, the terror alert was being increased because there are ''clear and inherent vulnerabilities'' in transit systems that carry huge numbers of people daily, said a U.S. counterterrorism official who spoke on condition of anonymity because the increased alert had not yet been announced.

Authorities moved to heighten security within several hours of the deadly attacks in London's transit system, although they said they had no intelligence indicating similar attacks were planned in the United States.

The terror alert has not been raised in the United States since last August, when the Homeland Security Department increased the threat level to orange - or high - for the financial sector in New York and New Jersey in the run up to the November elections.

President Bush, in Scotland for a meeting of the Group of Eight leaders, conferred in a secure video conference with national security and homeland security officials in Washington.

''I instructed them to be in touch with local and state officials about the facts of what took place here and in London,'' Bush told reporters from a summit of world leaders. Bush said he urged caution ''as our folks start heading to work.''

The State Department told all U.S. embassies to review their security arrangements. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice telephoned British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw offering any assistance his government might require, said a State Department official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because the official was not authorized to be identified.

The U.S. Embassy in London is secure, but the consular section, which deals with visas and other routine business, is closed, the official said.

Rice has not changed plans to make a trip to Asia beginning Friday, with China the first stop, said Sean McCormack, the department spokesman. ''Her trip will proceed as scheduled,'' he said.

U.S. officials were trying to determine, meanwhile, whether an al-Qaida cell's claim of responsibility for the London attacks was credible. A U.S. official speaking on condition of anonymity because events were still unfolding said analysts were sifting through recent intelligence for evidence that other attacks might be in the works.

A senior U.S. counterterrorism official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said that because the attacks were well-coordinated and appeared fairly sophisticated, they were consistent with al-Qaida's methodology.

Recent intelligence indicated that London was considered a prime target for Islamic extremists, in part because al-Qaida was having difficulty getting people into the United States, the official said.

Security was stepped up in Washington, with bomb-sniffing dogs and armed police officers patrolling subways and buses. Police carrying rifles rode some trains, and passengers were being urged to report any suspicious activity. Security was also stepped up at the Pentagon and on Amtrak.

There were no visible signs of increased security around the U.S. Capitol, one of the city's most popular tourist destinations. Tours continued unabated, while machine-gun toting Capitol Police officers patrolled outside, as they do every day.

A notice sent by the Capitol Police Department to top elected officials said that while there was ''no intelligence regarding a specific threat'' to the Capitol.

Though Congress was in recess, lawmakers were quick to condemn the London attacks.

Traveling in Africa, Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, R-Tenn., denounced them as ''cowardly acts against innocent people.''

''The United States cannot be intimidated and our efforts will not be deterred,'' Frist said in a statement. ''We stand by the British people in their hour of need as they have done for us. My sympathies go out to the people of London.''

Senate Democratic leader Harry Reid of Nevada, said he and other leaders ''stand in complete solidarity with Prime Minister Blair and President Bush, and all the leaders of the G-8 Summit, who pledged their commitment and resolve to fight and defeat this kind of extremism and hatred wherever it exists in the world.''

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Associated Press writers Katherine Shrader, Mark Sherman, Barry Schweid, Glen Johnson, Robert Burns, David Espo, Ron Fournier and Liz Sidoti contributed to this report

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