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White House monitoring London incidents

President Bush, speaking after new attacks in London, said that terrorists are trying to frighten the free world by killing innocent people.
/ Source: The Associated Press

President Bush, speaking after new attacks in London, said Thursday that terrorists are trying to shake the will of the free world by killing innocent people.

"They don't understand that when it comes to the defense of universal freedoms, this country won't be frightened," the president said during an appearance before members of the Organization of American States.

He did not mention the explosions in London but devoted part of his speech — an address about free trade with Central America — to the war against terrorism.

Before his remarks, Bush was briefed by senior aides about what had occurred in London. The explosions in three subway stations and a bus were eerily similar to attacks exactly two weeks ago that killed 56 people including four suicide bombers.

U.S. mass transit systems remain on code orange, or high alert, since the London bombings two weeks ago, but the rest of the country is at yellow, signifying an elevated risk.

U.S. officials are unaware of any specific intelligence indicating a similar attack on the homeland, said Kathleen Montgomery, spokeswoman at the Department of Homeland Security.

U.S. terror alert will not be raised
She said that Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff was closely monitoring events but had no immediate plans to raise the U.S. terror alert beyond current levels.

The Pentagon increased security on its grounds in response to the latest London problem. Spokesman Bryan Whitman said there was no specific threat against the building, which is adjacent to a Washington-area subway stop.

In his remarks, Bush told the audience that "we're still at war." He described the terrorists as "cold-blooded killers who embrace an ideology of hatred."

"They have territorial designs," the president said. "They have the desire to use their terrorist techniques to frighten us. They understand when they kill in cold blood it ends up on our TV screens and they're trying to shake our will. And they're trying to create vacuums in which their ideology can move.

Bush vows to find terrorists overseas
"They don't understand our country, though," the president added. Bush said that "we will defend ourselves by staying on the offense against these killers. We will find them overseas so we don't have to face them here at home."

Bush was briefed on the London developments by White House chief of staff Andy Card and Stephen Hadley, the national security adviser, at the end of the president's regular intelligence briefing.

In the nation's capital, trains and buses were running normally and authorities remained on heightened alert, Metro spokeswoman Lisa Farbstein said. Passengers should expect to see bomb-sniffing dogs and increased patrols at train stations, she said. Buses also may be randomly checked.

The London incident triggered immediate reaction on Capitol Hill, where the House chaplain opened the day's proceedings with a prayer for any victims, and where one congressman used the report and the example of earlier bombings in London and Madrid to call for additional funding for mass transit security.

"Instead of acting as a wakeup call, Congress seems to be hitting the snooze button," said Rep. Bob Menendez, D-N.J. "How many warnings do we need before we take action?"

Homeland security will act based on London incident
Homeland Security has been weighing on a daily basis when to lower the alert system, but in view of Thursday's explosions, is likely to delay doing so.

"We're going to have to take a look at the material that came out of the U.K.," said Homeland Security Assistant Secretary Brian Besanceney. "And that will factor into the discussions."

Chertoff was keeping plans to leave Washington in the afternoon to meet with local officials Friday in St. Paul, Minn., a spokesman said.

In an interview last week with The Associated Press, Chertoff said that state and local authorities which run mass transit systems should provide the bulk of security measures.

Congress is considering competing plans to spend $100 million or $150 million to better secure trains, buses and subways across the United States.

Rep. Bennie G. Thompson, a Mississippi Democrat and ranking member of his party on the Homeland Security Committee, said, "We know there is no endless pot of money, but it is only reasonable that our nation spends more than six-tenths of a penny for each of our 30 million daily commuters, which is all it spends now."