Faced with the prospect of retaliation in the wake of U.S. cruise missile attacks on suspected terrorist targets in Afghanistan and Sudan, federal facilities and employees around the world are on heightened alert.
According to an Associated Press report, the CIA has told senior Clinton administration officials that the prospect of retaliation against Americans overseas is "very, very high."
Asked yesterday whether there were "imminent threats" to American embassies or military bases prior to the cruise missile strikes, Defense Secretary William Cohen replied, "The answer's yes," and noted that the threats were "more directed toward our embassies."
The State Department yesterday issued a "worldwide caution" urging all Americans abroad to "review their security practices" and "remain alert to the changing situation."
"Large crowds and other situations in which anti-American sentiments may be expressed should be avoided," the department warned. "U.S. diplomatic posts worldwide are taking appropriate security precautions."
Non-emergency personnel and family members of employees of U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania have been authorized to leave those countries. In Albania, Eritrea and Pakistan, family members and non-emergency personnel have been ordered to depart. U.S. officials said all military installations in the Persian Gulf area had stepped up efforts to protect themselves against attack.
The General Services Administration issued an alert to security personnel across the country to heighten security and awareness at all federal facilities. This will include stepped-up patrols at buildings and increased visibility of security officers. "Everyone is just supposed to be more alert," said GSA spokesperson Eleni Martin.
The FBI has issued an alert to local law enforcement officials nationwide to be on the lookout for possible terrorist activity.
In Washington, local police went on alert for possible attacks on federal offices. Terrance W. Gainer, executive assistant chief of police for the District of Columbia, told The Washington Post that the police department had "increased security around our own buildings" and was providing additional support to "embassy and office areas where foreign nationals might be."