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The Honolulu Advertiser

Posted at 12:06 p.m., Monday, December 22, 2003

State heightens security 'behind the scenes'

By Mike Gordon and Peter Boylan
Advertiser Staff Writers

Except for lengthy lines and random vehicle searches at airports, Hawai'i residents probably wont notice the "high risk" threat alert implemented yesterday by state and national authorities.

State officials would say little today about exactly how they plan to respond to the "code orange" alert put in place yesterday by Gov. Linda Lingle. It is the first time Hawai'i has implemented the second-highest threat level.

"For the most part, its behind the scenes," said Maj. Charles Anthony, spokes-man for state civil defense and the Hawai'i National Guard. "Some people may see some increased security in some locations but I would say most Hawai'i residents arent really going to notice a difference."

The increased security measures were put in place after Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge raised the national alert level because of a potential for multiple catastrophic attacks.

No specific Hawai'i threats have been made, however.

"People at airports will not see National Guard soldiers, at least not at this time," Anthony said.

The number of National Guard personnel involved in security has increased, he said.

"What theyre doing, where they will be and whether the public will see them, we prefer to keep ambiguous," Anthony said.

State Director of Civil Defense Maj. Gen. Robert Lee said residents can expect longer lines at the airport. Lee said there would be random checks of all vehicles entering Honolulu International Airport.

He said the elevated threat condition led all branches of the military in Hawai'i to ratchet up security.

State transportation officials urged residents to arrive two to three hours before a Mainland or International flight and 1 hours before interisland flights. No long lines were reported today, said Scott Ishikawa, transportation department spokesman.

Civil defense officials met today with agencies that they deem "critical," including managers from public utilities and transportation. Included at the meeting was the Honolulu Board of Water Supply, which sent people today to check reservoirs, booster stations and wells, said Edward Correa Jr., chief of security.

"It will be a regular part of their day until the threat level changes," he said.

Lingle said several factors, including the demeanor of Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge during an impromptu video conference between federal and state officials yesterday morning, contributed to the elevated threat level.

Lingle said no specific threats have been made against Hawai'i.

"Its the most serious weve ever seen him (Ridge) with intelligence information," Lingle said. "The volume of intelligence is greater than anytime including before 9/11."

Lingle urged all residents to continue to congregate for the holidays and said there is no need to deviate from their normal activities. She also said stepped-up security efforts would be put into place at government buildings, and critical infrastructure such as power plants and water supply sources.

Coast Guard Capt. Paul Zukunft said the increased intelligence chatter has forced the Coast Guard to elevate its homeland security posture. He said he could not elaborate on the specifics of the increased patrols, but indicated that more ships would be patrolling Hawai'is waters.

He said on any given day, Coast Guard vessels patrol the main maritime arteries leading into Honolulu Harbor, while a patrol plane scouts the waters up to 200 miles off the coast of Hawai'i.

"Its a layered defense," he said. "Well be out there 24-7."

Federal officials said fresh intelligence suggests that terrorists may be planning a series of synchronized, catastrophic terrorist attacks during the holidays.

In response to the alert, Mayor Jeremy Harris ordered the activation of the O'ahu Civil Defense Agency Emergency Operations Center.

On the Web:

www.co.honolulu.hi.us/ocda/

www.scd.state.hi.us/

www.whitehouse.gov/homeland/