Officials stay alert for terrorist threats

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Austin Police Chief Art Acevedo talked at City Hall on Monday about the precautionary safety measures city officials are taking in the wake of Osama bin Laden’s death.

Photo Credit: Derek Stout | Daily Texan Staff

City officials are preparing for possible threats to Austin in the aftermath of the death of Osama bin Laden, the elusive al-Qaida leader who claimed responsibility for the Sept. 11 attacks.

Now that bin Laden has been killed, preemptive measures should be taken to avoid allowing a threat to Austin, said city manager
Marc Ott.

“I want to emphasize that what we’re doing here is precautionary,” he said at an emergency press conference Monday. “We’re not here to incite panic or anything like that. We believe what we’re doing today is notifying residents to be diligent along the lines of what they see and to do what I would characterize as responsible thinking.”

City officials do not believe a threat to the city is imminent, but it is important to be watchful for anything that might be suspicious, Ott said.

The U.S. Department of State issued a worldwide travel alert Monday for U.S. citizens traveling or living abroad.

“We’re regularly in contact with both local and federal authorities regarding security matters and will continue to monitor our system closely,” said Capital Metro spokesman Adam Shaivitz. “Generally, we don’t disclose details of security measures since doing so could compromise those efforts, but we are always and are continuing to monitor our system closely.”

Austin-Bergstrom International Airport spokesman Jason Zielinski said he had not been advised of any changes to the passenger screening process.

The city is confident that all of its employees and officials will be competent and able to handle any situation that may occur, said Mayor Pro Tem Mike Martinez.

“We’re just doing our job, day to day, and if something happens we’re going to respond to it,” he said. “But we need our citizens to remain as aware as they have for the last 10 years.”

After Sept. 11, cities nationwide took precautions against potential terrorist attacks, said Assistant City Manager Michael McDonald. Austin was not susceptible to some of the initial threats because of the precautionary measures it took against an attack, he said.

“After 9/11, we learned a lot,” he said. “Many of the threats that continued to occur nationwide, we remained prepared for. That speaks highly to not just public safety but across board the departments we have in place.”