WASHINGTON - American officials are on guard in light of arrests made in Great Britain overnight in connection with a terror plot targeting trans-Atlantic commercial flights, senior Defense Department officials said today.
British authorities' discovery of the terror plot has led to a ripple effect around the world. Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff said his agency has raised the nation's threat level to Severe, or Red, for commercial airline flights originating in the United Kingdom bound for the United States.
This mirrors Great Britain's precautions. "Consistent with these higher threat levels, the Transportation Security Administration is coordinating with federal partners, airport authorities and commercial airlines on expanding the intensity of existing security requirements," Chertoff said. "We are prohibiting any liquids, including beverages, hair gels and lotions, from being carried on (airplanes)."
British authorities announced today they had foiled a terrorist plot to bomb airliners flying to the United States. A total of 21 people have been arrested in the United Kingdom, according to news reports. Homeland Security officials said there is no indication of plotting within the United States.
"We believe that these arrests have significantly disrupted the threat, but we cannot be sure that the threat has been entirely eliminated or the plot completely thwarted," Chertoff said.
DoD officials said the department has a close working relationship with the Department of Homeland Security. Instances such as this "tend to be worked as a government rather not as one particular agency," Pentagon spokesman Bryan Whitman said.
Still, Homeland Security is the lead agency and DoD will continue to monitor the situation and stay in close contact with other agencies, officials said.
U.S. Northern Command officials stated it would be "inappropriate to speculate or comment on any current operational activities or discuss future force protection measures." Officials said the command will remain vigilant to potential terrorist threats and is prepared to respond to any threat.
Senior defense officials speaking on background said there is no change in the status or deployment of U.S. military forces in response to the situation in the United Kingdom.
Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney this morning called up National Guardsmen to help screeners at Boston's Logan International Airport. But there are no plans to federalize Guardsmen in response to the situation, DoD officials said.