NEW YORK (Reuters) - People across the United States gathered on Thursday for parades, picnics and fireworks at Independence Day celebrations, held under unprecedented security in the wake of the Boston Marathon bombings.
Spectators waving U.S. flags and wearing red, white and blue headed for public gatherings in Boston, New York, Washington and Atlanta under the close watch of police armed with hand-held chemical detectors, radiation scanners and camera surveillance, precautions sparked by the deadly April 15 bombings.
A U.S. national security official said on Wednesday that U.S. intelligence agencies were unaware of any attack threat by militants timed to occur on July 4.
Under steamy summer skies, tourists in New York flocked to ferries headed for the Statue of Liberty, re-opening with an Independence Day ceremony after closing in October as Superstorm Sandy approached.
About 75 percent of Liberty Island, the statue's home off the southern tip of Manhattan, was swamped by surges during the powerful storm.
Others headed for Brooklyn's Coney Island to cheer on competitors in the annual Nathan's Famous hot dog eating contest.
Six-time champion Joey "Jaws" Chestnut strove to break his own world record of 68 hot dogs and buns in 10 minutes and hold onto the Mustard Yellow International Belt. His female counterpoint, Sonya "The Black Widow" Thomas, sought to defend her record of 45 hot dogs and buns.
Amid controversy over revelations about the National Security Agency, some marked the nation's birthday by demanding respect for its founding principles.
In Birmingham, Alabama, organizers urged participants to join a "Restore the Fourth" protest - a reference to Fourth Amendment protections against unreasonable searches and seizures - to denounce NSA spying on U.S. citizen phone calls and online activity.
Fourth of July celebrations mark one of the largest public gatherings since bombs exploded at the finish line of the Boston Marathon, the biggest attack on American soil since the September 11, 2001 attack on New York's World Trade Center towers and the Pentagon.
Tamerlan and Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, the two brothers suspected of carrying out the attack on the marathon, originally planned to set off their homemade bombs on July 4 but attacked earlier because they had made the devices sooner than expected, law enforcement officials have said.
Tamerlan was killed in a shootout with police and Dzhokhar is in prison awaiting trial on charges including murder and using a weapon of mass destruction. He could face the death penalty if convicted.
(This version of story corrects the name to National Security Agency in eighth paragraph)
(Additional reporting by Mark Hosenball in Washington and Verna Gates in Birmingham, Alabama; Editing by Ellen Wulfhorst and Lisa Shumaker)
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