WASHINGTON — Unexploded car bombs in London led to extra patrols in the United States Friday, but Bush administration officials said they saw no special terrorist threat heading toward the Fourth of July holiday.
Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff said there were no immediate plans to raise the U.S. national threat level, now at yellow, or elevated.
The Department of Homeland Security said in a statement that it was in close contact with state and local authorities around the nation.
“At this time we are characterizing this as a localized incident in London,” DHS spokeswoman Laura Keehner said. “We encourage the public to enjoy the upcoming holiday but ask, as always, that they be vigilant and report suspicious activity to authorities,” she said.
Said White House press secretary Tony Snow: “There is no specific or credible evidence of any threat of any kind against the United States of America.” He was in Kennebunkport, Maine, where President Bush will meet Sunday with Russian President Vladimir Putin.
Snow said British authorities had not yet determined if there was a link to any terrorist group.
“Look, it’s terrorism, but we don’t know if there — there’s no definite, there’s no established connection with any organization at this point,” he said. Snow said U.S. officials “remain very aggressively engaged” with the British.
Bush was briefed in Kennebunkport about the London investigation. At the White House, homeland security adviser Frances Fragos Townsend called a meeting of top officials, inviting Vice President Dick Cheney, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, Defense Secretary Robert Gates, Chertoff, CIA Director Michael Hayden, Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson and Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, among others.
Throughout the country, local law enforcement agencies received two FBI bulletins, according to an official who has seen the reports and summarized them for The Associated Press. The first said that while July 4 festivities might make an attractive target for terrorists, authorities had no credible evidence that an attack was planned. The second explained what happened in London and advised local officials to be on the lookout for suspicious vehicles and activity.
Without intelligence linking the London vehicles to any group or conspiracy, investigators there were poring over the cars looking for fingerprints or other clues.
In New York City, Mayor Michael Bloomberg said police would work extra hours in more locations.
“We’re going to ramp up a little bit, but nothing dramatic,” Bloomberg said on his weekly radio show.
The extra police presence was ordered out of a sense of precaution, not panic, officials said.
“We want to just be on the safe side here and employ additional resources over the weekend,” said Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly.
The police department increased patrols at high profile tourist areas such as Times Square, as well as the subways. Officers were told to give extra attention to parking garages and any suspicious vehicles.
A British security official told The Associated Press that Britain’s domestic spy agency MI5 was examining whether there was any connection in London with similar foiled plots — including a planned attack on a West End nightclub in 2004 and a thwarted attempt to use limousines packed with gas canisters to attack targets in London and New York.
Kelly said the similarity between the first bomb found in London on Thursday night and the method of the limousine plot was partly responsible for New York’s heightened security.
The London car bomb near Piccadilly Circus was powerful enough that it could have caused “significant injury or loss of life” — possibly killing hundreds, British anti-terror police chief Peter Clarke said.
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