The Times Reporter

August 3, 2004

In nation's capital, a calm atmosphere

BY PAUL M. KRAWZAK
Copley News Service

WASHINGTON – World Bank employees and area congressional staff remained calm Monday despite warnings that al-Qaida terrorists might be planning a truck or car bomb attack on major financial institutions.

It was mostly business as usual a day after U.S. Homeland Security Department Secretary Tom Ridge declared an orange, or high, alert for the World Bank and International Monetary Fund in Washington, the New York Stock Exchange and other buildings in New York City and Newark, N.J.

“We have already battened down the hatches,” said Maryanne Walsh, chief of staff for Rep. Tim Ryan, D-Niles, referring to tightened security since the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.

Ridge issued the security alert Sunday based on specific information that terrorists have planned attacks on the buildings, which represent economic power to al-Qaida.

As Walsh drove to work Monday, the only difference she noticed was that police were patrolling with a dog in an underground garage near the House office complex. But that is something they do periodically and it might not have had anything to do with the alert, she said.

The General Services Administration, which manages 8,711 federal properties, alerted its employees to be on the lookout for anything unusual even though the orange alert applied only to certain financial institutions, none of which the GSA manages.

“We issued a notice today to all GSA associates encouraging them to heighten their awareness and preparedness and to report any suspicious activity,” said a statement from the GSA.

GSA Administrator Stephen Perry, a former executive at the Timken Co. in Canton, has changed the term for employees at the GSA to “associates,” a term that Timken uses for its employees.

At the end of the day, U.S. Capitol Police announced the closing of a street near the Capitol and the erection of additional barriers to improve security.

August is the quietest month on Capitol Hill with most lawmakers back in their states during the monthlong recess.

Staff for Reps. Bob Ney, R-St. Clairsville, and Ralph Regula, R-Bethlehem Township, reported little if any change that they could see as a result of the orange alert.

Asked if he were fearful, Chad Tanner, press secretary for Rep. Ted Strickland, D-Lisbon, responded with an emphatic “no.”

“I feel pretty secure here,” he said.

World Bank employees on the way home described a heavy police presence outside the building and more ID checks inside but otherwise they said the day was normal.

“I just think everything is going to be OK,” said Karen Midkiff of Beltsville, Md., who processes diplomatic pouches at the bank. “It’s in God’s hands.”

Anthony Francis of Woodbridge, Va., an accountant in a World Bank credit union, confessed to being a “little bit” scared. “But they have a good security system here. I’m not that much concerned right now,” he added.