National Threat Level Raised to High

Sunday December 21, 2003 -- Posted at 7:00 p.m. CDT

WASHINGTON, D.C. --The National Threat Level has been raised to orange, the second-highest level, amid concerns about possible terrorist attacks.

In making the announcement today, Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge said there has been a ``substantial increase'' in the volume of threat-related reports. Ridge says they point to a threat that's perhaps greater now than at any time since the attacks of September 11th, 2001 and that extremists believe those attacks will ``rival or exceed'' those of september eleventh.

The secretary says recent reporting reiterates that Al-Qaida still wishes to carry out attacks against the United States using aircraft as a weapon. The terror threat level was last raised to orange on May fifth, after attacks in Saudi Arabia and Morocco. The threat level was returned to yellow eleven days later. Ridge says ``extensive and considerable protections'' are in place across the country. He says government will stand ready ''24 hours a day, seven days a week'' to stop terrorism.