Terror Threat Raised to 'Orange'

ByABC News
September 10, 2002, 11:50 AM

Sept. 10 -- The Bush administration today elevated the color-coded terrorist threat level from yellow to orange the next-to-highest alert level and warned of a high risk of terrorist attacks in the coming days.

"We are now at high risk of a terrorist attack," said Director of Homeland Security Tom Ridge at an afternoon news conference with Attorney General John Ashcroft. "We are now at level orange."

Ashcroft said "specific intelligence on specific attacks on U.S. interests overseas" prompted the elevated warning. "We believe this to be credible information and the analysis that has been taken by intelligence agencies leads us to believe this is an appropriate step," he said.

Intelligence sources told ABCNEWS some information about a possible attack in Asia came during the last 24 hours from a "second-level" al Qaeda operative in U.S. custody, who only recently began cooperating with American officials.

His information was considered credible because some of his other claims had been independently verified.

The al Qaeda operative told officials the terror group was planning an attack on U.S. targets around Sept. 11 this year, officials said. The operative was not Abu Zubaydah, a top al Qaeda leader captured in March, who has been the source of previous warnings about potential attacks.

U.S. officials also had indications that terrorists in the Middle East were preparing for a suicide attack on U.S. targets at unknown locations.

The recommendation for the move to a new level was made by various federal law enforcement and security agencies, and approved by President Bush.

"The threats that we have heard recently remind us of the pattern of threats we heard prior to Sept. 11," the president said later, speaking at the Afghan Embassy in Washington. "We have no specific threat to America, but we are taking everything seriously, obviously."

Evidence suggested that terrorists had been planning car-bomb or other attacks on U.S. facilities in Southeast Asia, and had been accumulating explosives since January of this year, officials said.