Authorities in New York and New Jersey increased security after reports of a credible, uncorroborated threat that terrorists may be plotting an attack in the city around the Sept. 11 anniversary.
Police cruisers took up positions on midtown blocks on Lexington, Park and Fifth avenues in Manhattan yesterday as officers stopped trucks and other vehicles for inspection. Drivers were made to open the storage spaces of delivery trucks for police. In Brooklyn, New York, U.S. marshals armed with machine guns guarded the federal courthouse and increased security was observed in front of the nearby city emergency management office.
“We have already had a full complement of people working shifts because of the Sept. 11 anniversary prior to this,” Jim Margolin, a spokesman for the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s New York office, said yesterday. “We are taking the logical investigative measures to assess this threat.”
In a warning related to the terrorist threat, police in New York and
Long Island were put on alert late last night
for a stolen white “Budget Rental” van with the Oklahoma tag 2LE922,
according to the New York Daily News.
New York police officers will extend their shifts by four hours at least through Sept. 12, said Commissioner Ray Kelly. Police will increase vehicle checks and monitoring of bridges and tunnels, Kelly said. Police will also increase baggage screenings in subways, patrol outside places of worship and government buildings and conduct bomb sweeps of public garages.
High alert around city landmarks
City landmarks, including Grand Central Terminal and Pennsylvania Station, will have heightened security tomorrow, as will major events including the U.S. Open tennis tournament in Queens.
A heavily guarded “frozen zone” for vehicles is being created from West Street to Broadway and Murray to Albany streets in Lower Manhattan. Several streets in the area will be closed during the weekend.
To assist the police, the FBI will mobilize specialized teams, including special agents, bomb technicians and SWAT and hazardous-materials crews.
New York Governor Andrew Cuomo said yesterday that he has deployed additional state police and National Guard troops throughout the New York City area this weekend, to supplement law enforcement patrols already assigned to regional airports, bus terminals and subway and train stations.
The latest threat
The latest threat concerns a possible al-Qaeda-sponsored attack targeting New York or Washington on or near the anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2001, attack, said a U.S. official, who wasn’t authorized to discuss the matter publicly. The official said the intelligence concerns a possible vehicle-borne attack, perhaps on a transportation hub or bottleneck, and cautioned that the options may be broader than a car or truck bombing.
“There are literally hundreds if not thousands of names being scrubbed” in a database of suspected terrorists, House Homeland Security Committee Chairman Peter King said. Investigators are “going to suppliers and store owners, anyone who’s had a car stolen, anyone who’s leased certain types of trucks, anyone who sold explosives,” he said.
A U.S. official in Washington said the credible intelligence revolved around a plot possibly hatched by al-Qaeda in Pakistan involving three individuals, including possibly one American. Another U.S. official cautioned that information wasn’t yet confirmed. The officials weren’t authorized to publicly discuss the intelligence.
A U.S. intelligence alert that federal officials sent to local law enforcement said operatives in the suspected plot may be carrying American documents, according to two people familiar with the alert who weren’t authorized to speak publicly.
U.S. intelligence officials learned of the possible threat in intercepted communications among suspected al-Qaeda operatives in the tribal areas of western Pakistan, three U.S. intelligence officials said.
However, they said, the “chatter,” as they described the intercepted conversations, didn’t name the alleged attackers and included only vague descriptions of vehicle-borne attacks on the two most likely targets on a day of obvious significance and media attention.
Obama, who is scheduled to attend ceremonies at Ground Zero tomorrow with former President George W. Bush, was briefed on the threat yesterday by National Security Adviser Tom Donilon, White House counterterrorism adviser John Brennan, and Deputy National Security Adviser Denis McDonough before leaving for a speech in Richmond, Virginia, White House press secretary Jay Carney said.
“As we head into the 9/11 anniversary weekend, we continue to urge the American public to be vigilant and report any suspicious activity to law enforcement authorities,” Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano said in a statement. “We take all threat reporting, including the recent specific, credible but unconfirmed threat information, seriously.”