The heightened state of alert in New York, Newark, N.J. and Washington is "a grim reminder" of terrorist threats that still face the United States, President Bush said Saturday.
He defended the elevated warnings in the face of criticism they were based on old intelligence.
"Information from arrests in Pakistan, taken together with information gathered by the U.S. intelligence community, indicated that al-Qaida has cased financial targets in New York, New Jersey and Washington, D.C., and has recently updated their targeting information," Bush said in his weekly radio address.
"This information was buttressed by other information we already had." He did not elaborate on the "other information."
Bush is anxious to keep national security, a political strong suit, front and center in his re-election campaign. There are signs that Democratic challenger John Kerry could be chipping away at Bush's advantage on the issue.
In an Associated Press poll conducted Tuesday through Thursday, 43 percent said Kerry would do a better job of protecting the country — a gain of 8 percentage points from a similar survey in March. Bush still has the advantage on the issue, with 52 percent saying the Republican incumbent would do better in protecting the nation.
Bush opened the address, broadcast as he vacationed at his family's summer home on the Maine coast, by saying, "My most solemn duty as president is to protect our country."
He devoted his message to outlining steps his administration has taken since the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.
"We have pursued terrorists across the world, destroying their leadership and denying them sanctuaries," Bush said. "We are working with other governments to break up terror cells and stop planned attacks, on virtually every continent."
But, he said, "The elevation of the threat level in New York, New Jersey and Washington, D.C. is a grim reminder of the dangers we continue to face."