ANNAPOLIS – Less than 24 hours after the U.S. began “Operation Iraqi Freedom,” Gov. Robert Ehrlich urged Marylanders to watch for possible security breaches and briefed citizens on the state’s safety measures.
Security has been “hardened” at key sites across the state – including closing vehicle access around Maryland’s State House – and State Police are working 12-hour shifts.
“We are in the state of Maryland, we are next to D.C., we have valuable assets,” Ehrlich said. “Our communication – intra-ageancy and with the federal government – is a bit more important here than in other states.”
Ehrlich and other governors are maintaining daily conference calls with the White House. He is also briefed daily by the White House on intelligence regarding the state and the war, he said.
The national terrorism threat level remains at Code Orange – or “high” alert, but without specific threat – one color below the most critical alert level: Code Red.
Ehrlich did not say whether he would raise the state’s threat level and that he is following the federal government’s lead.
Ehrlich encouraged Marylanders to actively protect the state.
“This is the defense of the homeland and to the extent that you live in the homeland you have a part to play,” Ehrlich said.
Adjutant Gen. Bruce Tuxill, chief of the Maryland National Guard, advised Marylanders to do three things: remain vigilant, report suspicious activity and be prepared.
“Think of a snowstorm” when buying goods, he said, but don’t hoard more than basic supplies.
The governor also advised residents to report suspicious activity to the State Police.
Lt. Col. Stephen T. Moyer, Maryland State Police homeland security director, encouraged Marylanders to use the state tips hotline to report suspicious activity. The hotline, which is operated 24 hours daily, is 1-800- 492-TIPS (8477).
“We want to encourage reasonable calls . . . tip lines can be abused,” Ehrlich said.
“On the other hand we are asking Marylanders to be extra-sensitive to their environment.”
Police answered 24 calls as of yesterday afternoon, Moyer said. No arrests were made based on those calls, he said.
While every call does not turn into an arrest, Moyer told Marylanders to keep dialing with discretion.
“We may receive a tip that seems like it is nothing,” Moyer said. “But it could link up several different pieces of information” nationwide.
He would not go into specifics about the 24 calls for fear of providing more information to potential terrorists.
On the national front about 2,000 National Guard have been, or are being mobilized, Tuxill said.
“We have Marylanders in conflict,” Tuxill said. “Our heart goes out to them and our support goes out them as well.”
The state budget will be hurt by the war, but the administration has no estimates yet, said Ehrlich spokesman Greg Massoni.
Ehrlich told his secretaries to keep track of costs related to the war so the state can apply for federal reimbursement later, Massoni said.
Ehrlich said he supports the war and believes President Bush is right.
“You cannot view the events in the state of Maryland separate from the events in Afghanistan, separate from the events in the Philippines, separate from the events in Iraq,” Ehrlich said. “They are all different fronts in the war on terror.” – 30 – CNS-3-20-03