SAN FRANCISCO - National Guardsmen with M-16s and Humvees patrolled the Golden Gate Bridge and other California spans yesterday, and traffic across the bridges was lighter than usual as a warning of terrorist attacks shifted the nation's anxiety from the East Coast to the West.
Gov. Gray Davis went public Thursday with the FBI's warning that suspension bridges across the West could be targets over the next few days.
“There's no way I'd drive over the Bay Bridge,” said film editor Stephanie Shallberg, one of many who took the subway instead. “On my way home last night, I thought I was going to pass out.”
There were no reported problems at the four bridges Mr. Davis named: the Golden Gate Bridge, the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge, the Vincent Thomas Bridge at the Port of Los Angeles, and San Diego's Coronado Bridge.
Mr. Davis shocked many commuters - and some law enforcement officials - with his announcement that the government had “credible evidence” that terrorists may be plotting to attack California bridges.
The FBI confirmed the threat but said it was uncorroborated. Attorney General John Ashcroft said the warning had only “relative credibility.”
Mr. Davis said he felt he had an obligation to warn the public.
“If I failed to share that information and God forbid something went wrong, I'd be kicking myself,” the governor said.
President Bush said he supported Mr. Davis' decision to warn the public.
“I think any governor should be able to conduct their business the way they see fit,” Mr. Bush said. He said the homeland defense program should enable governors to “harden targets, respond to uncorroborated evidence, and to protect their people.”
The FBI alert was sent to law enforcement agencies in eight Western states, warning that “unspecified groups are targeting suspension bridges on the West Coast.”
In Oregon and Washington, the alert triggered additional security precautions at some of the most heavily traveled bridges, including Washington's Tacoma Narrows Bridge. Oregon Gov. John Kitzhaber said the Coast Guard will be checking underneath his state's bridges more often, and he urged people not to be afraid.