New York and D.C. alert as US warns of 'credible' terrorist threat
Intensified chatter on jihadist websites led the US to move to protect against a possible terrorist attack, likely focused on New York and the nation's capital, to coincide with the 9/11 anniversary.
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Al Qaeda, the warning noted, was actively investigating the possibility of “trying to tip a train by tampering with the rails so that the train would fall off the track at either a valley or a bridge.” Though the Transportation Security Administration sent a bulletin to railway officials, DHS did not issue a National Terrorism Advisory System alert.Skip to next paragraph
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The most recent warning Thursday indicates that Al Qaeda and its affiliates have also considered attacks with small arms, homemade explosives, and poisons.
New York CIty Mayor Michael Bloomberg on Thursday night urged residents to go about their normal routines, even as the city’s police commissioner announced that police would set up vehicle checkpoints across the city and step up bag checks of subway riders.
Early warnings that surfaced Thursday of missing rental cars in Kansas City, Mo., which some analysts were linking to the potential attack, were being downplayed Friday morning after the vehicles were recovered.
Other officials are cautioning that much remains unknown about any potential plans for an attack on US soil. Former Bush administration Homeland Security official Fran Townsend told CNN that the threat, while credible, is unverified.
There are questions and “weird things” about the information that intelligence officials have picked up, she added.
“What is ‘weird’ is that some of this [information] appears inconsistent and incompatible,” says George Lopez, an expert in counterterrorism at the University of Notre Dame, in South Bend, Ind. What’s more, terrorist groups often hype their capabilities. “The overall chatter, I suspect, is not a surprise to any agency,” he says. “There is a lot of bravado out there.”
That said, Dr. Lopez adds that officials have probably been picking up on threats that sound disturbingly similar coming from different sources of intelligence. “What may have tipped the balance” for US officials sounding the current alarm is “that there was too close a correspondent in one set of foreign chatter with the other human intel and bits of the technical data which was found in the US,” he argues. “That would – and should – draw lots of scrutiny.”