YOKOSUKA NAVAL BASE, Japan — Gate security here has been beefed up just days after terrorism concerns prompted U.S. officials to raise the nation’s attack-alert system to its second-highest level.

Barriers and metal detectors have been added at gates, patrols have been increased and taxis coming onto the base are being searched.

Base Commander Capt. King Dietrich said he ordered the changes, calling them an “increase [of] the random measures” normally in place and “putting different measures in effect at different times.”

Dietrich said Monday he had ordered the stepped up measures for “no particular reason.”

“You don’t want to ever do anything predictable,” he said.

On Monday afternoon, all pedestrians who came through the main gate first passed through a metal detector. At one point, about 10 people stood in line, and many had to empty their pockets after change or keys set off the alarm. None said they minded the check.

Metal detectors also were in use at the base’s two other gates, including one for pedestrians only.

Additionally, every taxi was pulled over in an area just inside the gate, where cab contents were searched while drivers and passengers stepped outside. Navy police said they estimated roughly 100 cabs now are being searched daily.

The enhanced security includes several extra barriers, or serpentines, at the base entrance for cars to wend their way around.

The precaution has slowed traffic; during the peak morning rush, passing through now takes up to 40 minutes, according to Petty Officer 2nd Class Bredell Richardson.

Not all commuters were pleased by the experience.

“Even though you tell them why you’re doing it, people still complain,” Richardson said. The measures began last Tuesday, he said.

That’s two days after a U.S. Department of Homeland Security decision to raise the nation’s color-coded threat-level assessment system to orange, the second-highest level.

Orange denotes a “high risk” of terrorist attack.

That decision was made after increased intelligence on threats to the United States, with specific references to the holiday season, officials said.

Those concerns also prompted cancellation of six Paris-U.S. airplane flights last week and Sunday caused British officials to say they had tightened security on transatlantic flights, including possibly placing air marshals on such flights.

This is the fourth time this year U.S. government officials have raised the threat level to orange.

Each time, the heightened threat level has generated questions about how to interpret it and what precautions, if any, Americans should take.

Rep. Christopher Cox, R-Calif., House Select Committee on Homeland Security chairman, said Sunday on Fox News that the current system alarms many people who, in the face of an increased but general threat, can’t do much other than to “hand-wring and hanky-twist.”

Cox said he favors a more regional approach.

On overseas bases, much more than hanky-twisting can be done.

Security can be increased by order of a base commander, like that issued by Dietrich, or on a wider basis.

What steps other U.S. bases in Japan had taken, if any, were difficult to gauge Monday.

Yokota Air Base, for example, had no visible new measures, and base officials declined to comment specifically on security.

“We’re at the appropriate posture,” said 2nd Lt. Jessica Martin, Yokota spokeswoman. “We can’t give any details of what it is.”

Likewise, civilian U.S. Naval Forces Japan spokesman Jon Nylander said he could not comment on any security measures at bases in Japan.

Earlier this month, Misawa Air Base increased its force protection level by reducing the hours and access at one gate and stopping and searching incoming vehicles. “While we are continually assessing force protection and taking measures, our posture now is not as high as it was earlier in the month,” said Capt. John Haynes, Misawa spokesman.

It was unclear how long the stricter measures would last at Yokosuka, although in the past they’ve lasted anywhere from a week to a month.

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Nancy is an Italy-based reporter for Stars and Stripes who writes about military health, legal and social issues. An upstate New York native who served three years in the U.S. Army before graduating from the University of Arizona, she previously worked at The Anchorage Daily News and The Seattle Times. Over her nearly 40-year journalism career she’s won several regional and national awards for her stories and was part of a newsroom-wide team at the Anchorage Daily News that was awarded the 1989 Pulitzer Prize for Public Service.

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