D.C. remains on high alert

Many threats keep bomb squads busy

By Brian Reilly

Washington was still under a maximum-security alert yesterday, the only region outside Oklahoma City to be so designated after a car-bombing that killed scores and injured hundreds.

Bomb squads with D.C, and U.S. Capitol Police spent yesterday zigzagging among federal and private office buildings, 10 of which had bomb threats during the day.

In between emergency calls, bomb units led German shepherds on "precautionary sweeps" of high-profile buildings such as federal courts to soothe local anxieties that Wednesday's car-bombing could be duplicated here.

At other federal agencies yesterday, senior officials accustomed to breezing past security desks found themselves digging for identifimtion badges. Some commuting employees' cars were inspected before they pulled into parking garages, and some workers went home early because of bomb threats. "Today the guards were to and from conference calls and news shows yesterday, trying to get the word out to the hundreds of thousands of workers in the region's 631 federal buildings.

Mr. Coles said the best defense against another random attack could be the vigilance of federal workers. That means office workers as well as security guards should be poised to handle bomb threats and other suspicious calls.

"People are somewhat nervous" Mr. Coles said. "We want to alleviate ... their fears by being on the ball."

Bomb threats yesterday ranged from office buildings in Annapolis, where police searched the State House and Governor's Mansion, to Roanoke, where authorities sealed off several blocks to destroy a suspicious abandoned briefcase.

Late last night, people at Union Station were kept away from their cars as FBI agents checked out reports that a bus had arrived there with a bomb.

No bombs were found in any of these instances.

In an interview yesterday with The Washington Times, Mr. Coles ran through a checklist of what a federal worker should do when a suspicious call is received.

"Any worker sitting by a phone should be ready for such calls, he said

When a call appears suspicious, workers should pay close attention to the caller's voice and any accent, he said. They should also, listen for any background noises such as music, dogs barking, Cars or machinery.

If possible, they should ask questions of the caller, trying to find out when the bomb might go off or where and what type of bomb it might be, he said.

Mr. Coles said workers in federal buildings that are not often the subject of tourist attention stated a report to the Federal Protective Service if they see anyone taking photographs of the buildings or asking for floor plans.

They can also call be FPS hot line at 202/708-1111 with concerns, he said.

"Such vigilance is essential to countering planned attacks, Mr. Coles said. But he warned that for some bombings there is no defense.

"There is nothing we can do about random acts of violence. and that is scary" he said.

But he suggested federal workers do their best to put away their anxieties and get on with their lives, taking walks or going for a bicycle ride to reduce stress.

In Washington, the State Department blocked off the turn around circlels alongside its Foggy Bottom headquarters.

Dave Adams a U.S. Secret Service spokesman, said officers have stepped up inspections of cars and packages at the White House gates and beefed up patrols on the grounds.

U.S. Park Police parked near the White House and other federal buildings have been told to tighten security but no other measures have been taken, said Park Police Maj. Bob Hines.

While they look out for others, Secret Service agents, in Washington wait anxiously for word on four agents and two administrative workers who are still missing in the wreckage of the Oklahoma City office building.

"The later it gets, the worse it gets" Mr. Adams said.

Sam Jordan, acting director of the D.C. Office of Emergency Preparedness, said Mayor Marion Barry asked him to coordinate a stepped-up security effort in federal and city government buildings, including the mayor's office at One Judiciary Square.

No streets surroundging Federal offices have been closed, but D.C. police officials say they have loaned barricades to the State Department to cordon, off some underground garages.

FBI terrorism specialists have yet to recommend dramatic changes in building security, according to spokeswoman Susan Lloyd.

Brian Blomquist and Jeanne Dewey contributed to this report.


The Federal Protective Service is responsible for security at all federal office buildings managed by the General Services Administration -- 6,800 nationwide, 631 in the D.C. area. Founded in 1971, the service has 10 regional branches nationwide.

Who: The FPS has 1,000 uniformed officers, 115 in the area. It also subcontracts with about 2,500 special police officers in the area.

What: The service patrols office space, staffs security desks, uses electronlc surveillance and conducts investigations as part of a total security package for 900,000 federal workers (250,000 in the area).

Where: Some area buildings under FPS protection are the departments of Justice, Commerce, Health and Human Services, and Housing and Urban Development; Crystal City II; National Pension Building; and the FPS and GSA headquarters at 18th and F streets NW.

Source: Federal Protective Service

Pennsylvania Ave. Closure || Peace Park