Utah Homeland Security keeping eyes and ears open following bin Laden's death
Kristin Murphy, Deseret News
SALT LAKE CITY — There are no specific threats of retaliation related to Utah following the killing of Osama bin Laden.
But state Homeland Security officials have been advised to keep their eyes and ears open.
Late Sunday night, Department of Public Safety Col. Keith Squires, the governor's Homeland Security adviser, received word from the federal Homeland Security office "advising us that every center and everyone needs to be at a heightened level of vigilance because of the potential of those directly connected to al-Qaida, or sympathetic to al-Qaida, may strike out."
Following the death of the world's most wanted man, national security advisers warned of possible retaliation by terrorist groups.
Squires, the state's Homeland Security director, said Utah has the Statewide Information and Analyst Center, or SIAC, a public safety partnership designed to collect, analyze, and disseminate intelligence to protect against such things as terrorism. It is part of the Fusion Center network, which consists of 72 agencies nationwide and in U.S. territories.
The SIAC is partnered with the FBI and federal Homeland Security.
"It's what ties us to federal agencies," Squires said. "It's actually become a very effective tool."
Information is exchanged daily among intelligence analysts.
In Utah, the message to be more vigilant means at this point for law enforcers to simply watch for suspicious activity, Squires said.
"We put that information out to the law enforcement agencies that are tied into the SIAC just for them to be extra alert to anything that may be possibly related to terrorist activity," he said. "Watch more carefully for things that may be related and get information to the Fusion Center in case someone is motivated by (bin Laden's death).
"Right now, it's just eyes and ears."
If information about a specific threat is received, it would be passed along to the appropriate agency, Squires said. Meanwhile, the Fusion Centers would exchange information to find out if an incident in one state, for example, could be linked to threats in other areas, he said.
Squires pointed to the arrest of Najibulla Zazi of an example of how the intelligence sharing system worked. In 2009, Zazi, who lived in Colorado and plotted to bomb the New York subway system, was arrested before carrying out his alleged plot.
"We look at that as an example of how al-Qaida has changed efforts to reach out to individuals who are already here in the county to try and inspire them to conduct attacks whenever and wherever they can. It's increased the effort for federal, state and local agencies (to work together to stop potential terrorist threats)."
Officials are also encouraging, "anyone that sees something unusual or potentially linked to criminal activity to report that to law enforcement," Squires said.
Other local law enforcement agencies also reported Monday they are not currently making any special patrols because of the new warning.
"There's no reported threat locally. We maintain a conjunctive effort with federal agencies on security. We have not altered our day-to-day activities in Salt Lake City," said Salt Lake Police Sgt. Shawn Josephson.
Salt Lake City International Airport spokeswoman Barbara Gann said airport police were on a "heightened security," but did not elaborate on whether that meant any changes to their daily patrols.
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