Monday, August 14, 2006

Official terrorism threat levels reduced

Officials in both the U.S. and Britain have lowered the official terrorism threat level in their respective countries.

In a press release issued yesterday, the U.S. Dept. of Homeland Security (DHS) made this announcement:
Effective immediately, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) announced an adjustment in the aviation threat level from RED to ORANGE for flights from the United Kingdom to the United States. There will not be any operational changes for domestic flights in the United States. Thus, the U.S. threat level remains at ORANGE, or "High," for all domestic and international flights. The ban on liquids and gels in carry on baggage remains in full effect.

Tonight, the U.K.'s terrorism threat level was changed from CRITICAL (an attack is expected imminently), to SEVERE (an attack is highly likely).

"The security measures already taken have allowed us to address an imminent threat of attack for flights between the United Kingdom and the United States. Let me be clear: this does not mean the threat is over. The investigation continues to follow all leads. In particular, we are remaining vigilant for any signs of planning within the U.S. or directed at Americans," said Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff. "We are maintaining a heightened level of security for United Kingdom flights bound for the United States and have put in place added measures for these flights even beyond the normal ORANGE procedures. The U.S. and the U.K. are now essentially at parallel security levels in aviation. Additionally, we are maintaining our heightened level of security for all flights both domestically and internationally."

While the threat level drops from RED to ORANGE on United Kingdom flights bound to the United States, passengers can expect enhanced measures to remain in place for these flights, including additional restrictions on hand luggage and gate check inspections.

Domestically, U.S. travelers should expect to see an increase in visibility and use of canine detection teams. Random inspections of bags at departure gates will continue. Earlier today, the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) announced slight modifications to its current security procedures, which can be viewed at

DHS will continue to evaluate these security measures and will further adjust as necessary to ensure the aviation system remains secure. Travelers are urged to remain alert and vigilant and report suspicious activity to authorities.
In a related move, the U.S. Transportation Security Administration (TSA) tweaked its policy about what can and cannot be taken aboard an aircraft by passengers:
  • Small doses of liquid medications permitted
  • Shoes removal required
  • Low blood sugar treatments including glucose gel for diabetics permitted
  • Clarifications include: aerosols prohibited, solid lipstick and baby food permitted
From the official TSA press release:
"I'd like to thank the American public for their patience and cooperation in observing the liquid, gel and aerosol ban," said Kip Hawley, TSA Assistant Secretary. "The refinements we are announcing are based on feedback from our security officers, the public and our partners. We are maintaining the same level of security while clarifying interpretations in the field. These tweaks are aimed at making a smoother process at the checkpoint."

The most significant changes to the security measures include mandatory shoe screening for all travelers and the admission of up to 4 oz. of non-prescription medicine. This refinement affords the same level of security that has been in place since last Thursday, but is intended to minimize the impact on travelers.

Travelers will continue to see an increase in visibility and use of canine detection teams. Random gate inspections and bag searches will continue. More information and further clarification on the ban will be offered via updated airport signs and in "Our Travelers " section.

TSA first implemented the ban on all liquids, gels and lotions as a precautionary measure, following the overseas arrests of a number of extremists engaged in a plot to destroy multiple passenger aircraft flying from the United Kingdom to the United States.

The nation'’s threat level remains at Severe, or Red, for commercial flights originating in the United Kingdom bound for the United States. All other flights operating in or destined for the U.S. remain at High, or Orange.
Concurrently, we learned from an Associated Press article on the news website that Britain had lowered its official terrorist threat level a notch as well, from "critical" to "severe."
The decision to drop the terror threat level to severe -- where it was at before the jetliner scheme was scuppered -- means passengers will be allowed a single, briefcase-sized bag aboard aircraft, and books, laptop computers and digital music players will also be permitted again.

Heathrow and other major London airports said they would not be able to implement all of the relaxed rules until Tuesday, but the scene at London airports was clearly improving during a drizzly, overcast Monday.

The British Airports Association said it was searching only half of passengers at Heathrow, greatly speeding up the flow. British Airways, the dominant carrier at the airport, canceled about one-fifth of its flights Monday, down from one-in-three that were canceled the day before.
The Associated Press quoted British Home Secretary John Reid:
"I want to stress ... that the change in the threat level does not mean that the threat has gone away," he said at an early morning news conference. "There is still a very serious threat of an attack. The threat level is at severe, indicating the high likelihood of an attempted terrorist attack at some stage, and I urge the public to remain vigilant."
DHS Adjusts Threat Level from Red to Orange For In-Bound Flights from the UK - U.S. Dept. of Homeland Security
TSA Adjusts Latest Ban Without Compromising Security - U.S. Transportation Security Administration
Britain's Threat Level Drops to 'Severe' -

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