U.S. Reviews School Siege Response

WASHINGTON -- Federal law enforcers are taking a new look at hostage-taking responses to make sure the United States is prepared for an attack like the recent terrorist takeover of a Russian school. "The president said to all of us: Just make sure you know what you are going to do, who is going to be doing it, where we are going to be doing it, what resources we are going to apply," Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge said Thursday.

In recent morning briefings, Ridge said President Bush had asked his top advisers -- including homeland security, FBI and justice officials -- to review their strategies for dealing with hostage situations.

Ridge said the U.S. government was still trying to find out key details of how last week's attack in Russia was planned and carried out. He indicated the U.S. government was still relying on press reports and is hoping to learn more from Russian officials.

At the same time, Ridge was somewhat critical of the Russians, saying it appeared that authorities there may have had a disjointed response to the hostage crisis blamed on Chechen rebels. More than 300 people died.

Later, Justice Department spokesman Mark Corallo said the FBI and other agencies "are constantly training and refining their techniques based on current threats. They always have and they always will."

As the three-year anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks nears, recent attention has focused on a pre-election threat. However, echoing a remark made at an April speech in Nevada, Ridge extended the amount of time the United States should be extra vigilant against a possible al-Qaida attack designed to disrupt the democratic process -- from the Nov. 2 Election Day to the presidential inauguration scheduled for Jan. 20.