4:20pm

Mon May 2, 2011
Osama Bin Laden Killed

U.S. Security Tightens, Despite No Specific Threat

On Monday, there were more police officers patrolling the subways in New York City and Washington, D.C., and tighter security at bridges and tunnels around New York City after the death of Osama bin Laden. The Massachusetts State Police had an increased presence at Boston's Logan airport, and at Los Angeles International Airport authorities say they're always on a heightened state of alert.

But Aaron Hanson, at LAX catching a plane to South Korea, said security on Monday was especially visible.

"I walked past a couple of security guys with M16s and a German shepherd," he says. "So yeah, I travel quite a bit, and that's a lot more than I'm used to seeing."

Authorities say that right now, there are no specific threats — they're just being cautious.

Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano made a point of noting that her agency has not issued a security alert. Under a new system — which replaced the much ridiculed color-coded alerts — a public warning will only be issued if there's specific information about a credible threat, she said.

Still, her department warned state and local law enforcement on Sunday night to be prepared for the possibility of an attack.

Senate Homeland Security Committee Chairman Joseph Lieberman (I-CT) says his greatest concern is the threat of a so-called lone wolf.

"A single individual who has been radicalized, [who] will now mobilize himself or herself to take action here at home against the American people," he says.

And, if there was any message from security officials, it's that the public should be on the lookout for anything suspicious that might indicate an attack is in the works and to report it to authorities. It's a system that's proven helpful stopping some domestic attacks, such as the planned bombing in Times Square a year ago.

But Former Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff says he thinks it's more likely that terrorists will retaliate against Americans overseas.

"It's still hard for them to mount a serious attack in the U.S. Now, does that mean a couple of folks aren't going to put together a bomb or do something like that? No, that's certainly possible, and I think it's important to be focused on it," Chertoff says. "But again, I think the vulnerability is greater overseas than it is here at home."

And at Logan International Airport, traveler Mimi Ganz said the news about bin Laden's death wasn't going to prevent her from flying to San Francisco, from the same terminal used by some of the terrorists in the Sept. 11 attacks.

"I knew that there's always a potential for retaliation and yeah, of course it went through my mind," she says. "But I feel comfortable with the security measures we have in place here."

Indeed, one of bin Laden's biggest legacies is the massive security network that's become a part of everyday life in the U.S., something officials don't expect to change anytime soon. Copyright 2011 National Public Radio. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

Transcript

MICHELE NORRIS, host:

In the wake of bin Laden's death, security has been tightened in the U.S. as a precaution. Authorities say they have no information about a specific threat, but they think there's a good chance that bin Laden's supporters will try to retaliate at some point, either at home or abroad. NPR's Pam Fessler reports.

PAM FESSLER: There were more police officers today patrolling the subways in New York and Washington, D.C., and tighter security at bridges and tunnels around New York.

The Massachusetts State Police had an increased presence at Boston's Logan Airport, and at Los Angeles International Airport, authorities say they're always on a heightened state of alert. But Aaron Hanson(ph), who was there to catch a plane to South Korea, said security on Monday was especially visible.

Mr. AARON HANSON: I walked past a couple of security guys with M16s and a German shepherd. So yeah, I travel quite a bit, and that's a lot more than I'm used to seeing.

FESSLER: But authorities say right now, there are no specific threats, that they're just being cautious.

Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano made a point of noting that her agency has not issued a security alert, that under a new system, which replaced the much ridiculed color-coded alerts, a warning will only be issued if there's specific information about a credible threat. Still, her department told state and local law enforcement authorities last night to be prepared for the possibility of an attack.

Senate Homeland Security Committee Chairman Joseph Lieberman says his greatest concern is the threat of a so-called lone wolf.

Senator JOSEPH LIEBERMAN (Independent, Connecticut): A single individual who has been radicalized will now mobilize himself or herself to take action here at home against the American people.

FESSLER: And if there was any message from security officials, it's that the public should be on the lookout for anything suspicious that might indicate an attack is in the works and to report it to authorities. It's a system that's proven helpful recently, stopping some domestic attacks such as the planned bombing in Times Square.

But Former Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff says he thinks it's more likely that terrorists will retaliate against Americans overseas.

Mr. MICHAEL CHERTOFF (Former Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security): It's still hard for them to mount a serious attack in the U.S. Now, does that mean a couple of folks aren't going to put together a bomb or do something like that? No, that's certainly possible, and I think it's important to be focused on it. But I think the vulnerability is greater overseas than it is here at home.

FESSLER: And at Logan Airport, traveler Mimi Ganz(ph) said the news about bin Laden's death wasn't going to prevent her from flying to San Francisco from the same terminal used by some of the terrorists on 9/11.

Ms. MIMI GANZ: I knew that there's always a potential for retaliation, and yeah, of course it went through my mind. But, you know, I feel comfortable with the security measures we have in place here.

FESSLER: Indeed, one of bin Laden's biggest legacies is the massive security network that's become a part of everyday life in the U.S., something officials don't expect to change anytime soon.

Pam Fessler, NPR News, Washington. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright National Public Radio.

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