A Terror Threat to Congress?

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Buildings aren't the only targets vulnerable to terror attack. TIME has learned that last Wednesday, the House Sergeant-at-Arms sent a memo to all representatives with a new security precaution in addition to the ones they had been advised to take after Sept. 11, 2001. After the 9/11 attack, the legislators were told to remove license plates on their cars that identify them as members of Congress and replace them with regular plates. And when they leave the congressional grounds they should take off the pins they wear on their coat lapels identifying them as congressmen. Now the Sergeant-at-Arms advised members to take the underground tunnels when they walk from their offices to the Capitol for votes instead of venturing outside, where they might be targets for terrorists.

The FBI is worried about the safety of Capitol Hill's leaders as well. TIME has also learned that on Friday, July 30, just two days before homeland security Secretary Tom Ridge issued his nationwide alert, a congressional leader was warned by an FBI official that he and the other members could be personally targeted by al-Qaeda in Washington or when traveling around the country. The top leaders of Congress, such as the Speaker, party leaders and whips are already assigned Capitol Police security details to guard them. This is the second time the FBI has warned congressional leaders they could be targeted; the first such caution was issued about a year ago.