Operation Liberty Shield
On March 18, 2003, United States Secretary of Homeland Security Tom Ridge announced the implementation of Operation Liberty Shield, a specific set of measures designed to deter attack and protect Americans during periods of heightened risk of terrorism. The operation included a comprehensive and coordinated response among federal, state, and local authorities to an elevated threat level. Liberty Shield was designed to move the nation to a higher terror alert level in anticipation of the war against Iraq, imminent at that time.
Ridge announced that intelligence and law enforcement estimates indicated that terrorist groups and disgruntled individuals would "probably use military action in Iraq as pretext to attack." In raising the terror alert level to "high" (condition color orange), government officials automatically activated plans to disperse critical command and control elements of the government's emergency response forces and to restrict access to command operations. Operation Liberty Shield was specifically designed to augment these measures by staffing all response and recovery teams and to raise public awareness of both increased danger levels and specific protective measures.
As a component of Operation Liberty Shield, individuals seeking asylum for political purposes would be detained until their identity could be properly verified and their reasons for seeking asylum confirmed as legitimate. While all individuals seeking asylum would be temporarily detained, individuals from countries with known terrorist sympathies would receive extra screening and investigation.
Specific Liberty Shield measures included extended deployment of National Guard units and the positioning of those units alongside local law enforcement personnel to guard potential targets. Facilities designated as critical to the national infrastructure such as selected bridges, national landmarks, and medical and research facilities were put on special alert and in many cases, additional protective forces were deployed to those sites.
Liberty Shield operational plans called for heightened security at the nation's borders and additional Coast Guard patrols. Increased inspections were ordered at border crossings, and the Coast Guard stepped up its escorts of ships into harbor. Special security measures and enhanced screening was mandated for transportation facilities, including airport and railroad terminals. Railroads and trucking industries were ordered to increase inspections and protection of cargo.
Flight restrictions or limitations to operations were instituted over many United States cities. Flight restrictions were extended over some petroleum and all nuclear facilities. Additional guards were assigned to petroleum storage facilities, nuclear reactors, and nuclear waste sites.
As a part of Operation Liberty Shield, the FBI and Homeland Security personnel increased monitoring of individuals suspected of contributing to terrorist organizations and organizations suspected of funneling funds to terrorist organizations. Special units of agents and engineers were detailed to monitor Internet support facilities and to respond to possible cyberterrorism. Treasury agents instituted special computer-based checks to monitor and protect the nation's financial transfer systems.
To deter bioterrorism, state and local health departments were asked to be especially alert to and report unusual diseases, suspect symptoms, or suspicious disease patterns. Increased security measures were implemented in the nation's food supply network. Department of Agriculture officials ordered special inspections at feedlots, stockyards, and food distribution sites.
Ridge encouraged Americans to "be informed, stay alert, and report unusual activity." Additional details of emergency preparedness operations were posted at www.ready.gov , a website maintained by the Department of Homeland Security. Ridge stated that during Liberty Shield operations, government officials would place special emphasis on public communications.
█ FURTHER READING:
Department of Homeland Security. " Ready.gov." March 18, 2002. < http://www.ready.gov/ > (March 18, 2003).