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U.S. on alert over terror threat

By PHIL STEWART and MARK HOSENBALL
September 9, 2011

New York Police Department Inspector James Kehoe stands in the street and directs a "Critical Vehicle Response" deployment in New York. (REUTERS/Lucas Jackson)

President Barack Obama on Thursday ordered a redoubling of U.S. counter-terrorism efforts in the face of a “credible but unconfirmed” threat ahead of the 10th anniversary of the September 11, 2001 attacks.

U.S. officials, speaking to Reuters on condition of anonymity, said the threat involved Washington D.C. and New York City, which were targeted in al Qaeda attacks a decade ago this Sunday that killed nearly 3,000 people.

A counter-terrorism official said intelligence pointed to possible car bomb attacks and added the threat information came from Pakistan’s tribal areas. A manhunt was underway for two or three suspects, who one person familiar with the matter said were suspected of having links to al Qaeda.

But U.S. officials used strong caveats when discussing the threat information privately, with a national security official cautioning that experts thought the threat would ultimately not check out.

New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg also stressed that the threat had not been corroborated, even as he announced heightened security measures “some of which you may notice, some of which you may not notice.”

“There is no reason for any of the rest of us to change anything in our daily routines,” he told a news conference.

Still, Bloomberg asked citizens to report suspicious or dangerous activity, adding: “Over the next three days we should all keep our eyes wide open.”

The White House said Obama was briefed on specific threat information on Thursday morning, and noted that the U.S. government had already “enhanced its security posture” ahead of the anniversary.

“Nevertheless, the President directed the counterterrorism community to redouble its efforts in response to this credible but unconfirmed information,” a White House official said, speaking on condition of anonymity.

“HYPER-VIGILANT”

White House spokesman Jay Carney said “we’re hyper-vigilant to this specific report that’s just coming in.” He told MSNBC television that the U.S. government was taking all necessary precautions, without offering details.

Documents discovered in Osama bin Laden‘s compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan, after he was killed in a raid in May by Navy SEALs, highlighted his persistent interest in attacking the United States around the anniversary of the 2001 attacks. But it is unclear if the plans ever evolved beyond aspiration.

“As we know from the intelligence gathered following the Osama bin Laden raid, al Qaeda has showed an interest in important dates and anniversaries, such as 9/11,” said Jan Fedarcyk with the FBI’s New York field office.

Bloomberg said he spoke with the head of New York’s public transportation authority, which was hiking security. He added: “For the record, I plan to take the subway tomorrow morning.”

New York City Police Commissioner Ray Kelly announced measures including more bag inspections on the subway, more bomb-sniffing dogs on patrol and increased deployment of radiation monitoring equipment.

“There will be increased focus on tunnels and bridges and infrastructure in general, as well as landmark locations, houses of worship and government buildings,” he said.

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security, which said only last week that there was no credible information that al Qaeda was plotting an attack around the September 11 anniversary, declined to offer details on the threat.

It cautioned that there were always threat reports before important dates like the anniversary of the September 11 attacks.

“Sometimes this reporting is credible and warrants intense focus, other times it lacks credibility and is highly unlikely to be reflective of real plots under way,” spokesman Matt Chandler said.

“Regardless, we take all threat reporting seriously, and we have taken, and will continue to take all steps necessary to mitigate any threats that arise.”

A second law-enforcement source played down an ABC News report about missing rental trucks — saying the vehicles had been recovered and there was no connection to terrorism.

(Additional reporting by Jeremy Pelofsky, Alister Bull and JoAnne Allen in Washington and Michelle Nichols in New York; editing by Anthony Boadle)

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7 Responses to U.S. on alert over terror threat

  1. bmclellan

    September 9, 2011 at 12:40 pm

    This is one of those times when a single reply says it all.

    No shit Sherlock !

  2. Sandune

    September 9, 2011 at 5:30 pm

    right you are! Dr. Watson

    • b mcclellan

      September 9, 2011 at 10:33 pm

      Will the American people be satisfied with Watson-ism, second best, or will they rise as a tide gainst continual flotsam status ?

      Our might is cast before foreign shores to benefit an enigma we call war ?

      I neither can wrap that in a riddle nor hide the truth of man at his best is the lowest form of life on this planet.

      So what do we do now ?

  3. woody188

    September 9, 2011 at 11:51 pm

    Is it the CIA or al Qaeda that likes important dates and anniversaries?

    I always mix those two up, color revolutions and all.

    Isn’t it true that most “terrorist” operations broken up by the FBI were actually instigated and not even possible without the FBI’s implanted assets providing knowledge and access to materials otherwise unavailable?

    Increased focus on houses of worship? Will you let them naked body scan and search your bags before repentance and salvation?

    Clearly the thieves are back in the temple.

  4. Carl Nemo **==

    September 10, 2011 at 12:22 am

    Ahhh…it’s time for the annual drumroll to commemorate deadly treason in high places…! / : |

    Carl Nemo **==

  5. Keith

    September 10, 2011 at 2:15 pm

    More people die from falling out of bed in the USA each year than from terrorist attacks.

    Clearly, all of this nonsense is a money grab to keep the war industry in this country (which currently makes up about 15% of our GDP) gainfully employed.

    In the process, they’ve turned our country into an amrmed camp that nobody wants to visit, let alone live in.

    One definition of terrorism is: “…those violent acts which are intended to create fear (terror), are perpetrated for a religious, political or ideological goal”.

    By continually peddling all these warnings and telling us to be “vigilant” (over what no one seems to know) isn’t such fear mongering ALSO considered terrorism? Isn’t perpetrating all that fear accomplishing a “political” goal…that of keeping the Military Industrial Complex fully funded and humming along?

    …food for thought.

    • Almandine

      September 11, 2011 at 9:29 pm

      You got it.