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  Calif. Says Bridges May Be Targets

By Leon Drouin Keith
Associated Press Writer
Thursday, Nov. 1, 2001; 7:30 p.m. EST

LOS ANGELES –– Gov. Gray Davis said Thursday that law enforcement officials have "credible evidence" that terrorists may be targeting four California bridges, including the Golden Gate Bridge.

The FBI, however, said in a statement that authorities had not yet corroborated the information but decided to issue a warning.

"Reportedly, unspecified groups are targeting suspension bridges on the West Coast," the FBI said in a statement. Six "incidents" were planned during rush hour between Friday and Nov. 9, the statement said.

The bridges identified by Davis as possible targets were the Golden Gate and Bay Bridge, both in San Francisco, the Vincent Thomas Bridge at the Port of Los Angeles, and the Coronado Bridge in San Diego.

Security around the bridges has been heightened and involves the National Guard, U.S. Coast Guard and California Highway Patrol.

"The best preparation is to let terrorists know, we know what you're up to, we're ready for you." Davis said during a news conference in which he also appointed the state's new terrorism security czar.

Justice Department spokeswoman Mindy Tucker said the information that prompted Thursday's warning was "at a lower level" than the information that led to the FBI's alert Monday. "We are working to verify the validity" of the information, Tucker said.

The Golden Gate, a 4,200-foot-long suspension bridge, spans across the Golden Gate Strait at the entrance to San Francisco Bay. It has had more than 1.6 billion vehicle crossings since it opened in 1937. The 4 1/2-mile long San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge carries some 270,000 vehicles daily.

"We feel we're well-prepared for any nefarious and criminal actions," said Jeff Weiss, spokesman for the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge. "We're routinely inspecting the IDs of workers ... on the bridge to assure that everyone who is on the bridge belongs on the bridge."

Although hundreds of bomb threats have be called in to authorities about sites in California, this is only the second threat judged to be credible since the Sept. 11 attacks, Davis said. The first targeted Los Angeles movie studios.

Several Hollywood studios halted tours and increased armed patrols following a general warning Sept. 20 from the FBI that television and movie facilities could be targets of terrorist attacks.

At the Thursday's press conference, Davis announced his appointment of George Vinson, a 23-year veteran of the FBI, to the newly created post. Vinson, 57, previously served as assistant special agent in charge of the San Francisco office.

The state security officer will advise Davis on the latest anti-terrorism strategies and act as a liaison to the federal Office of Homeland Security, governor's spokesman Steve Maviglio said.

"This will make our job easier. It will make us more efficient," said Maj. Gen. Paul Monroe, adjutant general of the California National Guard.

© Copyright 2001 The Associated Press

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