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At the Nervous Center of Homeland Security

This spring, the center sent a representative to San Antonio to check on security measures for the NCAA Final Four basketball games. And in the coming months, it is braced for "suspicious activity" tips around the Fourth of July holiday and the Democratic and Republican national conventions.

During the Code Orange heightened terrorism alert level in December, when dozens of flights to the United States were canceled, Broderick often worked 36 hours straight. Ridge would join him at 3 a.m. in the center for a sandwich.

Personnel are required to put communication devices such as cell phones into locked boxes before entering the operations center.

Inside Homeland Security: The Post's Sari Horowitz describes a day inside the nation's year-old Homeland Security Operations Center.
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"He was here at 4 and 5 in the morning," Broderick said. "It was very serious. There were threats to blow up airlines and the possibility of large numbers of American casualties." Broderick said he slept on the floor of his office several nights. (He has asked for a sofa in his new office upstairs. "The floor is very hard," he said, "and I'm an old Marine.") But recently things have been calmer, and by the end of this day, many of the morning's incidents have been resolved:

After several meetings and many phone calls, federal agents had notified all concerned parties to be alert to the device that they worried could be used as a weapon.

The search for empty suitcases turned out to be a bust. The tip that several empty suitcases had been found in one city was revealed to be based on bad information, and law enforcement officers did not find empty suitcases at bus terminals in any other cities.

Police and federal agents determined that the Miami man with the tin cans and hose was also not a threat. "It turns out the guy was a flake who just wanted his own air-cleaning device," Broderick said.

Tonight, it turned out, he would get a decent night's sleep.

Staff researcher Bobbye Pratt contributed to this report.

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