WASHINGTON – U.S. officials decided against raising the nation's terror alert after two tapes surfaced this week, one from Usama bin Laden (search ) and the other from a man who identified himself as "Azzam the American."
Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge said Saturday afternoon that after reviewing the situation, officials decided that an increased threat level was not needed. "The tapes are new, the threat is not," Ridge said.
The terror alert level now stands at "yellow" — or elevated — for most of the country but officials earlier Saturday told FOX News they were considering an increase to "orange" — or high.
Ridge also said that because of federal efforts as well as improved coordination with state and local officials, the domestic security situation was good. "Clearly, we are safer today than we were six months ago," he said, using a time frame that accounted for the March 11 attacks on commuter trains in Madrid, Spain.
"We don't have to go to orange to add additional security measures around the country," Ridge said, noting that Coast Guard patrols of harbors would increase, inspection protocols at ports and airports would change and hazardous material would be diverted away from urban areas.
President Bush held a videoconference call with national security adviser Condoleezza Rice and the heads of the CIA, FBI and departments of Justice and Homeland Security. "The president did direct them to make sure we were taking all actions that might be necessary," said White House spokesman Scott McClellan (search).
McClellan said Saturday the nation was already on a heightened state of alert. "Remember, we're in an increased period of risk already and we have taken a number of steps related to that, some of which you see and some of which are not seen," he said.
On Friday, the Al-Jazeera television network aired portions of the 18-minute tape by bin Laden, the Al Qaeda (search) leader who took responsibility for the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks on the United States. Although bin Laden did not make any direct threats against Americans, he did say that the United States must stop threatening the security of Muslims if it wants to avoid "another Manhattan."
Bin Laden also issued a warning. "There are still reasons to repeat what happened," on Sept. 11, he said.
Earlier in the week, a tape surfaced where a man wearing dark glasses and an Arab headdress wrapped around his face claimed to be an American member of Al Qaeda and promised attacks that will make the streets of America "run red with blood."
Multiple officials and terrorist experts suspect the man is Adam Yahiye Gadahn (search), a young American who converted to Islam.
The FBI posted portions on its Website of the "Azzam the American" tape to get people to keep an eye out for Gadhan.
"We are urgently seeking information on the identity of the person pictured here — a self-proclaimed American jihadist using the alias 'Azzam the American, aka 'Azzam Al-Amriki.' He may currently be located outside the United States," the FBI said on its site. "We hope you might recognize him from his voice, his body language, or the style and content of his speech."
John Brennan, director of the federal Terrorist Threat Integration Center (search), said officials were looking at both the bin Laden and the "Azzam" tapes to see if there was a connection.
"We're looking very carefully at them to see, in fact, whether there's a correlation and to look at the themes that come out from it, the content," he said during the news conference with Ridge. "I think it's important, though, to put these tapes, these two tapes, into the broader context, into the broader body of strategic intelligence that we have about Al Qaeda's plans to carry out attacks and its attempts to carry out attacks here in the homeland."
FOX News' Bret Baier, Ian McCaleb and Anna Persky contributed to this report.