Warning of al-Qaida threat downplayed

Local air security described. Washington terrorism analysts say a reported al-Qaida threat on Hawai’i is not credible, and Kaua’i hasn’t elevated its Homeland Security terrorism alert level.

Bill Gertz, an investigative reporter with The Washington Times newspaper, reported Monday that intelligence reports sent to senior U.S. officials in the past two weeks indicate Osama bin Laden’s terrorist group is plotting an attack on Pearl Harbor. Reportedly planes would be hijacked from Honolulu International Airport and flown into nuclear-powered submarines and ships at the nearby naval base.

“It is inappropriate to discuss the specifics of security posture and procedures,” said Navy Region Hawai’i Spokesperson Agnes Tauya. “The Navy and military does not comment on press articles. Threat assessments are tied to intelligence matters, which we do not discuss.”

Mayor Bryan Baptiste said, “we have not received information from any official source that gives credibility to the rumor of a planned terrorist attack on Pearl Harbor. “We will continue to monitor the situation and will react accordingly.”

Airport security at Honolulu International has reportedly been increased, but according to Transportation Security Administration Public Affairs Specialist Nico Melendez, the security threat level has not been elevated at Lihu’e Airport.

Travelers are not going to notice anything different, he said, adding that the TSA can guarantee the safety of residents and travelers.

“You can be sure about it because Congress has charged TSA with protecting travelers. That is our job, our mission and our goal,” Melendez said.

The TSA’s triple strategy includes:

  • consistently having screeners on highest level of alert;
  • security measures in place at perimeters; and
  • posting law enforcement officers at the airport.

“Maintaining the safety of the personnel and the security of our bases will always be a top priority, and as such we continue to maintain the appropriate level of security at all Navy installations in Hawai’i,” said Tauyan.

The U.S. Coast Guard are continuing to patrol harbors when a boat or vessel comes in.

Young Brothers port manager Wendell Kamm said that Kaua’i is following Honolulu’s lead in security measures, though security has constantly been changing. A representative for Matson Navigation was not immediately available to comment. Security assessments were completed for ports and shipping companies. Should threat levels be elevated, shipping companies may be required to change shipping policies and traffic into and out of their facilities, Kamm said.

Young Brothers said it would be hard to say who’s going to pay for the security adjustments. Though Kaua’i in itself has been pretty steady since last year’s shipping slowdowns, customers may have to pay the price in the end.

Staff Writer Kendyce Manguchei can be reached at mailto:kmanguchei@pulitzer.net or 245-3681 (ext. 252).

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