US authorities investigating possible 9/11 anniversary terror plot

By Herald Sun

New York is on high alert after a “credible” terror threat involving car or truck bombs was issued by US officials ahead of this weekend’s 10th anniversary commemorations of the September 11 attacks.


FBI assistant director Jan Fedarcyk refused to outline the nature of the threat but hinted it had come from information retrieved from Osama bin Laden’s compound when he was shot dead in May.

Detailed intelligence received last week suggested that al-Qaida planned to target Washington or New York.

Law enforcement officials said they were attempting to track down three people who may be travelling to the US or who recently entered the country, the Associated Press reports.

Other reports suggested the trio flew into the country last month.

The action follows higher than normal “chatter” in Pakistan about a possible threat.

Despite the terror alert, there were no plans to change Obama’s travel schedule, the White House said.

The President is scheduled to mark the anniversary with stops at New York’s ground zero, the Pentagon and Shanksville, Pennsylvania.

He also will deliver remarks Sunday night at a memorial concert at the Kennedy Center in Washington.

Earlier, US bases raised their alert levels and Pakistan has stopped foreign journalists getting close to the house of Osama bin Laden.

New York arms police with ‘heavy weapons’

In New York, city mayor Michael Bloomberg stressed the threat was uncorroborated and told New Yorkers to carry on with their lives, adding that he planned to take the subway in the morning.

“There is no reason for any of the rest of us to change our daily routines,” Mr Bloomberg said.

“The best thing to do to fight terrorism is to refuse to be intimidated by it.”

New York police commissioner Ray Kelly said measures were already in place but in light of the information, police would be taking additional measures and increase its presence by a third.

He said the public could expect to see heavily armed police and bomb dogs in public places, and tunnels and bridges would be swept for bombs.

This includes police with “heavy weapons” stationed outside Manhattan.

“The public is likely to see and may be inconvenienced by vehicle checkpoints throughout the city,” Mr Kelly said.

He said people could expect to have their bags checked on subways and bomb dogs would be present across the city. Extra security would be in place at landmark locations, houses of worship and illegally parked cars would be towed away.

Guards will be most visibly deployed at Pennsylvania Station, Times Square and Grand Central stations.

Mr Bloomberg, who some accused of over-reacting as Hurricane Irene approached the city last week, took a much cooler approach to the apparent terror threat.

“We know that terrorists view the anniversary as an opportunity to strike again,” Mr Bloomberg. “Now the threat at this moment has not been corroborated. I want to stress that. It is credible, but it has not been corroborated.”

Ms Fedarcyk began her statement to the media by referring to certain information that had been culled from bin Laden’s compound. She said intelligence networks had come to expect an increase in reports on any 9/11 anniversary.

“Sometimes this reporting is credible, and warrants intense focus,” she said. “Other times it lacks credibility and is highly unlikely to be reflective of real plots underway.”

She said that regardless, the information would be taken seriously.

Ms Fedarcyk said the law enforcement would in days ahead try to understand the threat, but said New York was acting out of diligence.

Pressed on what the specific threat was, Ms Fedarcyk would not elaborate but suggested people look at information already in the public domain after the raid on bin Laden’s compound, and to consider that terrorists considered anniversary dates as good opportunities.

None of the three spokespeople mentioned earlier reports that Washington DC, and other capital cities, had been part of the specific threat.

Terror ‘chatter’ in Pakistan raises fears

In that assessment, the Department of Homeland Security said in a statement: “There is specific, credible but unconfirmed threat information.”

“We have taken, and will continue to take all steps necessary to mitigate any threats that arise.

“As we know from the intelligence gathered from the OBL (Osama bin Laden) raid, AQ (al Qaida) has shown an interest in important dates and anniversaries, such as 9/11.”

The threat is believed to involve either New York City, Washington, DC, or both, and involves car bombs.

It is believed to have been picked up in monitoring of “chatter” from the tribal areas of Pakistan.

President orders counter-terror response

US President Barack Obama ordered counter-terrorism officials to boost their efforts as they probe the threat.

A White House official said Mr Obama “directed the counter-terrorism community to redouble its efforts in response to this credible but unconfirmed information”.

“The President was briefed on this specific threat information this morning and has been updated on it throughout the day,” the official said.

“The United States government has already significantly enhanced its security posture in advance of the 9/11 anniversary to protect the country against possible terrorist threats.”

Authorities said they had information on some possible suspects tied to al-Qaida, but not necessarily names.

The FBI and Department of Homeland Security were drafting a bulletin today to send to local law enforcement across the country.

“We have a duty to warn,” the senior US official said.

US officials have been saying for days that there is no known credible threat related to the anniversary. But when asked today whether that’s still the case, Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano seemed to at first hesitate.

“It is still the case that we don’t have something that would reach that standard, but we still have lots of chatter out there,” she said.

“And we take every bit of that seriously and track it down … The date is important because it’s 9/11. But as I said, in the intel world there’s lots of chatter and we’re taking it all seriously. Should there be something that rises to the level where I have to issue a threat advisory, we will issue a threat advisory.”

There were documents found inside Osama bin Laden’s compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan, that mentioned aspirations to strike on the tenth anniversary of the 2001 attacks.

The news comes after Obama revealed he “took a gamble” in giving the green light for the raid on bin Laden’s hideout, with the mission nearly called off at the last minute.