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US mass transit alert goes to 'orange'
Updated: 2005-07-08 07:21

"You kind of hold your breath until rush hour is over because of the timing of the one in London," said Paul Dullea, a 37-year-old employee of the Boston Bar Association who rode the commuter rail and subway into Boston from his home in Millis, Mass.

About 29 million people in the United States take commuter trains or subways on an average workday, and millions more take buses. The New York City area accounts for about a third of the rail total, followed by Chicago, Washington, Boston and Philadelphia. The West Coast's largest transit system is in San Francisco.

The alert marked the seventh time the terror threat advisory level had been raised to orange since it was created in 2002, though, like the last time, it was for specific areas. The alert was last raised in August for financial institutions in Washington, New York and Newark, N.J., in the run-up to the November elections.

Recent intelligence has indicated that London was considered a prime target for Islamic extremists, in part because al-Qaida was having difficulty getting people into the United States, one official said.

Two senior U.S. counterterror officials who detailed some of the classified information received in June said it indicated al-Qaida's intention to replicate last year's Madrid train bombing attack in Europe and the United States. The officials would not specify whether the intelligence came from a person, intercepted communication or other source.

But they said the intelligence was not otherwise specific, and was dated back to shortly after the Madrid attacks in March 2004.

The officials stressed that the information came as part of a stream of reports indicating al-Qaida's interest in transit attacks. One of the officials said a federal bulletin was not issued to private, state and local authorities because there wasn't specific information tied to an attack.
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