Bush briefed on airline plot, spokesman says

ABOARD AIR FORCE ONE (AP) - The plot to blow up multiple international flights was a serious threat, President Bush's spokesman said Thursday, even as he told Americans "it is safe to travel."

Bush planned to discuss the scheme to simultaneously blow up several aircraft headed from Britain to the United States during a previously scheduled visit to Green Bay, Wis.

The White House made arrangements for his remarks, from a metal plant, to be carried live on television. While on vacation at his ranch in Crawford, Texas, Bush has been fully informed of the investigations that led to the arrest of 21 people in Britain who are accused of being involved in the plan, which officials said involved explosives smuggled on board flights in hand luggage.

White House press secretary Tony Snow said Bush on Wednesday approved raising threat level for all flights from Britain to red, designating a severe risk of terrorist attacks.

Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff and the Homeland Security Council also recommended that all other flights be put under an orange alert, one step below the highest level, and the president approved that as well.

"We do believe the plot involved flights from the U.K. to the U.S. and was a direct threat to the United States," Snow said. The increased security as a result of the new threat level is a necessary inconvenience, he said.

"You can't go overboard when you're trying to save lives," Snow said, speaking to reporters traveling with Bush on Air Force One en route to Wisconsin.

Still, despite what he called the serious nature of the threat, Snow said: "It is safe to travel." Because Bush had been getting regular briefings on the developments for days, Snow said the president was not awakened overnight as action by British authorities was made public.

He and British Prime Minister Tony Blair held a lengthy teleconference on the matter Sunday and spoke again Wednesday by phone, Snow said.

"There were some signs," Snow said. "They thought it was time to move," he said of British authorities. After the remarks on the plot, Bush was keeping to his plans to highlight the economy and attend a Republican fundraiser.

"This is an ongoing investigation that will play out over several days and weeks," Snow said. "We will constantly evaluate the nature of the threat and adjust our measures."

(Copyright 2006 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)