WASHINGTON—President Barack Obama said there currently is no “specific and credible” intelligence indicating a terrorist plot against the United States, as he sought to reassure anxious Americans for the Thanksgiving holiday.
Speaking at the White House on Wednesday, Obama said it was understandable that Americans might be nervous following the Nov. 13 attacks in Paris, which killed 130 people and wounded hundreds more. While he encouraged Americans to remain vigilant, he urged people to go about their normal activities around Thanksgiving.
“While the threat of terrorism is a troubling reality of our age, we are both equipped to prevent attacks, and we are resilient in the face of those who would try to do us harm,” Obama said. “And that’s something we can all be thankful for.”
Obama spoke after a briefing with his national security team, including FBI Director James Comey, Attorney General Loretta Lynch, Homeland Security Director Jeh Johnson, and his national security adviser, Susan Rice.
The president has faced criticism for his initial response to the Paris attacks, particularly his focus on chiding Republicans who called on him to be more aggressive in fighting the Islamic State (ISIS), the extremist group believed to be behind the deadly assault in France. He was also sharply critical of lawmakers who backed legislation that would effectively keep refugees from Syria and Iraq—the two countries where ISIS is based—from coming to the United States.
He shifted his focus Wednesday to Americans who may worry that the attacks in Paris, which took place at restaurants, a concert venue, and a sports stadium, could be replicated in the United States.
“I know that Americans have been asking each other whether it’s safe here, whether it’s safe to fly or gather,” he said. “I know that families have discussed their fears about the threat of terrorism around the dinner table.”
The president said that if intelligence were to reveal a credible threat to the United States, the public would be informed. But he said Americans should feel confident in the work being done by national security and law enforcement officials.
“We are taking every possible step to keep our homeland safe,” he said.
The big Thanksgiving getaway is already in full swing Wednesday with drivers delighted by the lowest November gas prices in years, and many airline passengers undaunted by terrorism fears and long lines at security checkpoints.
Nearly 47 million Americans are expected to take a car, plane, bus or train at least 50 miles from home over the long holiday weekend, according to AAA. That’s the most travelers since 2007, a rise attributed to an improving economy and the cheapest gasoline for this time of year since 2008.
Pat Flynt had the recent terror attacks in Africa and Paris on his mind as he waited to get through a checkpoint at the Atlanta airport for his flight to visit a sick uncle in Baltimore.
“Hopefully there are no issues. That’s my main concern,” he said. “But with what’s been going on recently, I don’t care how long they take. I just want to be safe.”
Joyce Landeck was about four hours into her nearly 1,100-mile Indianapolis-to-Denver drive when she made a pit stop in Missouri to find gas for $1.62 a gallon.
“Oh, yeah,” she said while clutching the leash of her travel partner, a Doberman named Murphy Brown. “It’s really, really nice when it costs 30 bucks to fill the tank.”
Erin Goff makes the trip from Lake Panasoffkee, Florida, to Wichita, Kansas, nearly every year and occasionally flies but decided “I wanted no part of that” this time for fear of a terrorist attack.
“That was out of the question,” she said. So she found herself taking a break from the 1,350-mile drive at a convenience store in the Oklahoma City suburb of Moore, where she marveled at the price of gas: “It’s going to cost about half of what it cost a year ago or two years ago.”
In the West, drivers faced fresh snowfall in California’s Sierra Nevada and rain in the San Francisco Bay Area. Motorists in Montana and Wyoming were warned of icy roads after wintry storms moved through. Travelers heading out on Thanksgiving Day could see 8 inches of snow in the Denver area.
Anyone heading to a major airport should factor in 50 extra minutes on the road, according to the traffic data company INRIX. And then there’s the time spent going through security.
In Atlanta, traveler Fatima Boyd said Transportation Security Administration officers were thorough but friendly.
“I think they’re making sure that everybody has safe travels and [is] in great hands, and nothing crazy goes on during the holidays,” she said. “So that’s a plus.”