As 9/11 anniversary approaches, San Diego officials ask residents to be on alert
With the 10th anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks approaching, San Diego political and law enforcement officials Wednesday launched a campaign to warn residents to look for signs of terrorist planning.
“Al Qaeda and others have always had a fascination with significant dates in history,” Keith Slotter, special agent in charge of the San Diego office of the FBI, said at a news conference.
Public service announcements are slated for local television warning residents to be on the alert and to contact police if they see anything suspicious.
San Diego’s proximity to the U.S.-Mexico border, and the presence of numerous military bases, require an extra level of vigilance, said San Diego Mayor Jerry Sanders, a former police chief.
The eight signs were compiled by the San Diego Joint Terrorism Task Force and the federal Department of Homeland Security. The department has begun a national campaign called “If You See Something, Say Something.”
Among the alleged signs of terrorism: People appearing to watch potential targets, gain information about targets, test security methods and impersonate law enforcement or letter-carriers.
Other signs include people using cash for large purchases, buying an unusual amount of products such as fertilizer, weapons or uniforms, or appearing to rehearse an attack or move equipment or supplies into position.
“When in doubt, call law enforcement,” said San Diego County Sheriff Bill Gore. “We’ll handle it…We’re not targeting any particular group, we’re looking at suspicious activity regardless of who is doing it.”
San Diego Police Chief Bill Lansdowne remembered the police and firefighters who dashed into the second building of the Twin Towers when they were struck by planes.
“Remember what happened on 9/11 and show that level of courage,” he said.
Three of the hijackers who flew a plane into the Pentagon had lived in San Diego, all three from Saudi Arabia. Two of the three had taken flying lessons in San Diego.
In the wake of Sept. 11, there was criticism about lack of coordination and intelligence sharing between federal and local law enforcement and U.S. intelligence agencies.
Without directly mentioning that criticism, officials at the Wednesday news conference said that coordination has improved.
“We’ve never been more prepared,” Lansdowne said.
--Tony Perry in San Diego