White House spokesman Ari Fleischer Wednesday night announced the initial phase of U.S. disarmament of Iraq had begun. The president addresses the nation at 10:15 EST, Fleischer said.

Earlier today, Gov. Linda Lingle announced the state security alert status will be raised from “blue” to “yellow” beginning at 3 p.m. HST today, March 19.

The governor made the decision this morning to coincide with Pres. George W. Bush’s announcement on Monday giving Saddam Hussein 48 hours to leave the country at that hour.

It also follows the move by National Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge to raise the federal homeland security alert status to “orange” and implement “Operation Liberty Shield.”

The governor says the heightened security level means 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, Gov. Lingle says.

“The decision to raise our security alert status was based on the best available intelligence provided by the U.S. military and the Department of Homeland Security,” Gov. Lingle adds. “Although there is still no credible or direct threat to the state of Hawaii, we are aware of increased terrorist activity worldwide due to the initiation of conflict with Iraq. It would be prudent for the citizens of Hawaii to be at this elevated level of awareness.”

Under the color-coded Hawaii Homeland Security Advisory System, the yellow condition indicates an elevated risk of a terrorist attack. The yellow level also means there will be 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. For security reasons, details of the exact measures that will be implemented are not being released.

The Hawaii Homeland Security Advisory System complements the National Security Advisory System, which provides practical guidelines for individuals, families, businesses and organizations to plan for a potential terrorist threat.

Lingle says she and her appointees are in constant communication with the federal government and are working closely with our entire Hawaii homeland security team.

That includes the military and civilian partners to implement certain planned security measures as a result of the heightened security alert status, according to Major General Robert Lee, Hawaii’s adjutant general.

“The latest intelligence indicates that there is still no credible threat to Hawaii, however, with increased threats worldwide, raising Hawaii advisory status is a prudent step to take,” he says.

The governor emphasized the importance of keeping alert, while going on with normal daily lives. She also extended her full support to America’s military men and women, who she says, like countless of brave Americans before them, stand to defend the principals of freedom and democracy for which this nation stands.

Additional information about the Hawaii and national security alert guidelines and recommendations can be viewed at:

Hawaii State Civil Defense: http://www.scd.state.hi.us/

The National Strategy For Homeland Security: Office of Homeland Security: http://www.whitehouse.gov/homeland/

American Red Cross Hawaii Chapter: http://www.hawaiiredcross.org/

Gov. Lingle’s Web Site: http://www.hawaii.gov/gov

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