FBI in Philadelphia reports unspecified threat to Liberty Bell; security tightened
PHILADELPHIA (AP) — Federal authorities kept a close watch on the Liberty Bell on Thursday after receiving a “nonspecific” threat that someone planned to attack it. It was not being closed to tourists, though.
Security at the historic block that includes the Liberty Bell pavilion, Independence Hall and a federal courthouse, and the surrounding Old City neighborhood, was tightened after authorities issued a warning about the bell’s safety Wednesday.
Dennis Reidenbach, assistant superintendent at Independence National Historical Park, declined to give detailed security plans for the bell, which is visited by more than 1.6 million people each year.
The bell opened for visitors as usual Thursday, and a handful of people lined up to get in.
Dave Siegelman, 36, a computer analyst walking past the bell Thursday morning, said he wasn’t worried about the threat.
“That’s an inanimate object. There’s more crime against people,” Siegelman said. “I think that’s cowardly to try to destroy something that can’t hurt you back.”
The threat didn’t say when an attack might occur but was considered serious enough to warrant increased patrols, said Linda Vizi, spokeswoman for the FBI in Philadelphia.
An area terrorism task force made up of the FBI, other federal agencies, Philadelphia police and Pennsylvania and New Jersey state police “is in the process of determining whether there is any veracity or substance to the threat,” Vizi said.
Vizi declined to discuss details or the source of the threat. “All I can say is that it was a nonspecific threat,” she said. Local FBI officials learned of the threat from the FBI in Washington, she said.
Security had already been tightened in April after a self-described wanderer, Mitchell A. Guilliatt, struck the bell with a small sledgehammer while shouting, “God lives!” The 2,080-pound bell suffered small dents and chips.
Guilliatt has since pleaded guilty to damaging an archaeological resource and is awaiting sentencing. He could receive a six-month term.
The commonwealth of Pennsylvania ordered the bell from England, but officials were displeased with its sound when it arrived in 1752.
The bell was melted down and recast in Philadelphia in 1753. The bell, with its inscription “Proclaim liberty throughout all the land unto all the inhabitants thereof,” was not particularly famous until it was adopted as a symbol by the anti-slavery movement in the 1830s.
By 1846, a thin crack began to affect the sound of the bell. It was repaired that year and rang for a George Washington birthday celebration, but cracked again for unknown reasons and has not been rung since.
On the Net:
Independence National Historical Park: http://www.nps.gov/inde/liberty-bell.html