Security measures stepped up in Alaska

Posted: Wednesday, September 11, 2002

FAIRBANKS (AP) -- Security agencies stepped up their vigilance around the state after the federal government raised the terror alert to its second-highest level, based on intelligence warnings of possible strikes on the Sept. 11 anniversary.

While there has been no known threat against Alaska targets, state and local officials were keeping a watchful eye.

FBI agents in Anchorage had set up a 24-hour command center, said Special Agent Eric Gonzalez.

''Our joint terrorism task force is on standby to respond to any calls that may come in. We are in communication with the state and the Anchorage emergency centers, as well as hour headquarters in Washington, D.C.,'' Gonzalez said. ''We're asking the public to remain vigilant and to report any suspicious activity to law enforcement and the FBI.''

The Alyeska Pipeline Service Co., which operates the trans-Alaska oil pipeline, would not talk about security measures. But spokesman Curtis Thomas told the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner that, when the nation's alert status was increased, the company responded.

Officials charged with pipeline security oversight say all that can reasonably be done to protect the 800-mile line has been done. The pipeline supplies 17 percent of the nation's energy and is considered a vital U.S. asset.

In a teleconference with the nation's governors, the Bush administration didn't mention the trans-Alaska oil pipeline or any national assets as potential targets, said Bob King, spokesman for Gov. Tony Knowles. The pipeline has been mentioned in previous meetings, he said.

Fort Richardson's homeland security coordinator Wayne Rush said his division recommended to city and borough leaders that they may want to restrict parking in certain areas, have tighter control over access to public buildings and look for suspicious packages.

Tim Biggane, the Fairbanks North Star Borough's director for emergency operations, said his office has been on a heightened alert status since the Sept. 11 attacks. The high-alert status changes little.

''This makes sure that we solidify our contacts,'' Biggane said.

Alaska State Troopers said law enforcement officers would be more mindful of questionable activities.

''We've advised our people for the past couple of weeks, with 9-11 approaching, to be more watchful for suspicious activity; don't blow off the goof-ball calls because you never know what you're getting into, just be that much more vigilant, ask extra questions and be much more careful,'' said Alaska State Trooper Lt. Lee Farmer.

Military officials were tightlipped about security at Alaska bases and would not address specific measures.

''We've been maintaining an increased level of security since last September's attacks,'' said 2nd Lt. Amy Hansen, at Elmendorf Air Force Base. ''We are constantly assessing the threat and assigning appropriate security precautions. We're very aware that the first anniversary of September 11 is a day when many unspecified threats are possible. we take all of those into account in determining our security levels.''

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