Airport security increases with move to yellow level

Vans and trucks are subject to searches at Lihu’e Airport, and additional personnel will be searching passengers and baggage there, as the state’s terrorist-alert level was raised from blue to yellow yesterday by Gov. Linda Lingle.

While a spokeswoman for the U.S. Navy’s Pacific Missile Range Facility at Barking Sands wouldn’t discuss specific security enhancements at the Westside base, Lingle said yesterday that military installations across Hawai’i had moved up to a “bravo-plus” level of alertness.

“Maintaining the safety of our personnel and the security of our base has been and will continue to be a top priority, and as such, we are maintaining the appropriate level of security at PMRF and all our facilities in Hawai’i,” said Agnes T. Tauyan, deputy public affairs officer for Navy region Hawai’i.

“It is inappropriate to discuss the specifics of our security posture and procedures,” she added.

But any security enhancements haven’t, for now, impacted weekend use of base beaches by surfers, fishermen and other users.

“The beaches at PMRF are currently open to those who have filed the necessary paperwork and received approval for controlled beach access,” she said.

“If access must be denied or postponed, every effort will be made to inform the community as far in advance as possible. However, some circumstances are beyond the control of PMRF, and advisories may provide minimal lead time,” she said.

After the base was closed to the public for some time after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, an agreement was reached to allow those who obtained passes to use base beaches on weekends and federal holidays, from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m.

Those privileges are still in effect, at least for now, Tauyan said.

Lingle announced the state security-alert status moving to yellow, the middle of a five-tiered scale, indicating an “elevated” risk of terrorist attack in Hawai’i, occurring at 3 p.m. yesterday, the hour when Pres. George Bush’s 48-hour ultimatum for Iraq Pres. Saddam Hussein to leave Iraq lapsed.

The national alert level is at orange, the second-highest level, indicating a high risk of terrorist attack, as Operation Liberty Shield began late yesterday afternoon Hawai’i time.

“The heightened security level means our homeland security team will implement numerous precautionary measures to increase our state’s readiness to prevent terrorist attacks, which will ultimately protect our residents and visitors,” Lingle said.

Deliveries to state buildings will be carefully screened, she said.

“Although there is still no credible or direct threat to the state of Hawai’i, we are aware of increased terrorist activity worldwide due to the initiation of conflict with Iraq,” said Lingle.

“It would be prudent for the citizens of Hawai’i to be at this elevated level of awareness,” she said.

Under the color-coded Hawai’i Homeland Security Advisory System, the yellow condition means there is increased surveillance of critical locations, coordination of emergency plans, assessments and further refinement of protective measures, and implementation, as appropriate, of contingency and emergency response plans.

“The latest intelligence indicates that there is still no credible threat to Hawai’i, however, with increased threats worldwide, raising Hawai’i’s advisory status is a prudent step to take,” agreed Maj. Gen. Robert Lee, Hawai’i’s adjutant general.

“I want to emphasize the importance of keeping alert, while going on with our normal daily lives,” said Governor Lingle.

“Also, it is important to mention that our full support goes out to our military men and women who, like countless brave Americans before them, stand to defend the principals of freedom and democracy for which this nation stands,” said Lingle.

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