Golden Gate Bridge security boosted after Spain arrests : LUSENET : Grassroots Information Coordination Center (GICC) : One Thread

Posted on Tue, Jul. 16, 2002

Golden Gate Bridge security boosted after Spain arrests

SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) - Officials doubled security at the Golden Gate Bridge Tuesday after Spanish police arrested three suspected members of Osama bin Laden's al Qaeda network, one of whom had videotapes of U.S. landmarks including the famous San Francisco span.

George Vinson, California Gov. Gray Davis' special adviser on security, said it took less than an hour to bolster California Highway Patrol, California National Guard and other security forces guarding the bridge.

``It's a process of risk management and we'll see where it takes us. But the immediate response must be immediate,'' Vinson said.

Spanish officials said Tuesday they had arrested three men of Syrian origin, one of whom had various video tapes from an apparent tourist trip to the United States featuring footage of various installations.

Two tapes showed mostly images of the twin towers of the World Trade Center in New York from all angles and distances and recorded before the September 11 suicide attacks which killed about 3,000 people.

But they also included footage of Golden Gate Bridge, as well as California theme parks Disney Land and Universal Studios, the Sears Tower in Chicago, the Empire State Building in Manhattan, the Brooklyn Bridge and a New York airport.

Pictures of the bridges focused especially on their supports, while another two videos showed violent ``terrorist training,'' fighting and suicide bombers, Spanish officials said.

Golden Gate Bridge Manager Kary Witt said the Federal Bureau of Investigation was looking into the Spanish tapes and was in constant contact with bridge officials, although it had not yet informed them whether or not it regarded discovery of the tapes as a specific threat.

``Information such as this comes and goes and we respond to that by increasing the level somewhat,'' Witt told Reuters. ''This is a reminder we need to remain vigilant. We cannot let our guard down.''

A spokesperson at Chicago's 110-story Sears Tower said they were aware of the report and in touch with the FBI, although security at the building -- already high after the World Trade Center attacks -- was unchanged.

In New York, a spokesperson for the police department said, ``We've been on a heightened state of alert since Sept. 11,'' but had no further comment.

Golden Gate officials first stepped up security on the bridge in November amid reports, later deemed not to be credible, that extremists might target suspension bridges in the western United States.

The bridge, one of the most famous landmarks on the U.S. West Coast, stands 225 feet high and carries more than 100,000 vehicles per day.

Vinson said he was not unduly worried by the Spanish arrests.

``I still would feel comfortable driving over the bridge myself,'' he told KCBS radio. ``Terrorists have been known for years to surveil and to look at different venues and targets. The fact that they have videos doesn't mean that that particular site was a target, or that there was a plan to run against

-- Martin (, July 19, 2002

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