U.S. Attorney General John Ashcroft this afternoon announced that the federal government has raised the terror alert level for the first time to code orange, meaning a "high" danger of attack. That level requires government agencies to increase their security efforts.
Pilots have a critical role to play during this time of heightened vigilance. Because transportation modes are known to be favorite terrorist targets, AOPA urges pilots to be vigilant. Watch for anything unusual or suspicious at your home airport. Report any such activity to local law enforcement. Secure your aircraft before walking away from it.
Because of the heightened state of alert, incursions into restricted airspace can be expected to bring rapid and perhaps harsh response by authorities. Pilots are reminded that it has never been more critical to check notams immediately prior to flight and to be absolutely certain that you stay well clear of all TFRs. (Pilots are reminded of the TFRs surrounding tomorrow's 9/11 ceremonies in Washington, D.C., New York City and Pennsylvania).
While the greatest threat appears to be to U.S. embassies, military bases, and other interests overseas, intelligence officials also fear low-level al Queda operatives might attempt small-scale attacks in the United States.
Based on information from a suspected al Qaeda operative, and corroborated using other intelligence assets, the government believes U.S. assets in Southeast Asia are especially at risk. However, because the information may be incomplete, and because communications among terrorists a year ago followed a similar pattern and also indicated overseas targets, President Bush decided to raise the threat level assessment at home as well.