US official: terror alert to remain in effect as long as needed

Thursday, October 7, 2010

US official: terror alert kept as long as needed

WROCLAW, Poland — The deputy U.S. secretary of state said Thursday that the terror alert in Europe will stay in effect as long as it’s needed.

James Steinberg also said that the terror warnings issued recently by European governments and the U.S. are the result of an extraordinarily high level of intelligence sharing between them. That sharing, he said, is the result of dramatic improvements over the past decade.

He said the alert is “a recognition that we think there are reasons to be concerned and that people should be attentive.”

“As long as those conditions prevail, that alert will stay in effect. It won’t change,” he said on the sidelines of a conference on trans-Atlantic issues in the Polish city of Wroclaw. “But it is not a recommendation for anybody to change what they do or where they go. It’s simply just to be aware.”

He said the alert has value because it encourages citizens to be aware of danger, something that helped foil the Times Square plot in New York and other planned attacks.

“We’ve seen over recent years that that kind of alert — just having that in your mind — has made a huge difference, whether it’s the Times Square events or others,” Steinberg told a small group of reporters after delivering a speech at the Wroclaw Global Forum, a new initiative.

The U.S. State Department last weekend advised American citizens living or traveling in Europe to take more precautions about their personal security.

Britain’s Foreign Office in turn warned travelers to France and Germany of a high terror threat, while France on Wednesday warned its citizens that there is a high terrorism risk in Britain and asked them to be watchful in public transport and busy tourist areas.

France, Britain and Germany are believed to be the possible targets of the feared terrorist attack. The German government, however, has played down the fears and said earlier this week that there is no reason to be “alarmist.”

The U.S. believes a cell of Germans and Britons are at the heart of a terror plot against European cities, a plan they link to al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden. Pakistani officials said this week that eight German militants were killed in a U.S. missile strike in Pakistan.

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