GUAM MAINTAINS HIGH ALERT

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By Connor Murphy and Mark-Alexander Pieper

HAGÅTÑA, Guam (October 31, 2001 – Pacific Daily News)---Guam officials say they are continuing their heightened state of alert as the nation braces for another possible terrorist strike.

The FBI issued a new terrorism warning yesterday, asking Americans and law enforcement officials to be on the highest alert for possible attacks this week in the United States and abroad.

The alert did not include information about the type of attack or specific targets.

This alert was issued on the same day Guam officials met with the Federal Emergency Management Agency to assess Guam's terrorism readiness.

The local government will respond to the FBI warning by staying at its current state of security, which has been high since the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, said governor's Chief of Staff Gil Shinohara.

"What we're doing now is what we have been doing," Shinohara said.

Armed guards have been posted at the airport, power stations and military bases here. Military facilities are also enforcing 100 percent ID checks and random car searches.

The government is also taking all possible local threats seriously, Shinohara added.

Federal dollars

More money for security could be headed Guam's way soon, after FEMA officials met with government representatives yesterday.

The federal team yesterday reviewed Guam's communication abilities and medical facilities, Shinohara said, not only to assess their terrorism readiness but also to decide how to split up federal funds.

He said the island's needs are being considered as the federal Office of Homeland Security divides a $550 million supplemental budget among states and territories. The money is meant to provide additional security and supplies without local governments having to make emergency declarations.

Shinohara said the local government is asking FEMA officials to consider Guam's unique situation when it decides how to divide the funds.

"We asked them not to lump Guam in with the rest of the United States," Shinohara said. "Our remoteness affects our abilities to handle disaster situations because it's not like we can drive over to a neighboring state to get help."

Shinohara said the local government was asking for a significant amount of money, but he could not release the figure.

He added that FEMA officials will conduct a similar meeting in Saipan, then return to the mainland where they will review their findings and make a decision.

Vigilance continues

There is no need for legislative action to comply with the FBI warning issued yesterday, said Sen. Joe Ada, chairman of the legislative committee on public safety. However, he suggests that Guam residents take the alert seriously.

"Even though (Guam) is very remote from any of the terrorist attacks, obviously we must be very diligent," Ada said.

Jerry Yingling, Guam airport administrator, said he isn't implementing any major changes in airport policy. He said the new warning is a reminder to security personnel to stay watchful.

"You don't get a higher level of vigilance than we're already in," Yingling said.

Eighty-three armed National Guard members are at the airport helping airport security officers with their duties. Other security measures on planes and within the terminal also have been implemented.

The FBI warning will not mean any immediate activation of Army National Guard members, said Guard spokesman Capt. John Guerrero. He said the Guard remains at its current security posture.

"Should we be called upon and activated, we're ready to perform our mission," Guerrero said.

The Guam Police Department is ready to help if and when it gets an order from the office of Gov. Carl Gutierrez, said police Capt. Paul Suba.

"We'll basically assist them in whatever their plan of action may be," Suba said.

Local Navy spokeswoman Lt. Monica Richardson said the Navy is continuing security measures that already are in place.

"We're in an appropriate level of force protection," she said.

Capt. Mike Escudie, local Air Force spokesman, said he could not release details of specific safety measures, but said Andersen Air Force Base remains "in a heightened state of security and awareness."

For additional reports from the Pacific Daily News, go to PACIFIC ISLANDS REPORT News/Information Links: Newspapers/Pacific Daily News (Guam).

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