|"Only dull people are brilliant at breakfast"
|"The liberal soul shall be made fat, and he that watereth, shall be watered also himself."
-- Proverbs 11:25
Federal authorities are warning police of a possible terror plot against the New York City subway and train systems during the holiday season, prompting local officials to beef up security at stations. An internal memo obtained by The Associated Press says the FBI has received a "plausible but unsubstantiated" report that al-Qaida terrorists in late September may have discussed attacking the subway system.
A person briefed on the matter, speaking to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the intelligence-gathering work, said the threat may also be directed at the passenger rail lines running through New York, such as Amtrak and the Long Island Rail Road, which are particularly busy with Thanksgiving holiday travelers.
A U.S. counterterror official, also speaking on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to do so publicly, said senior government officials have been briefed because the FBI very recently received credible information about possible attacks over the holiday season, and authorities are particularly concerned about this long holiday weekend.
As the July 4 holiday approaches, Bush Administration officials are bombarding the nation's police, fire, emergency and corporate-security offices with another round of terrorism warnings. Although there are no plans to raise the threat level from yellow to orange, a senior Justice Department official says, "there's very serious intelligence that's corroborated, that's multiple sourced, that indicates that al-Qaeda is intent on hitting us and hitting us hard this year." The official concedes, however, that "we don't have specific information."
Along with this now familiar general warning, the FBI has introduced the specter of a new terrorism threat: booby-trapped beer coolers. A lightly classified bulletin sent to 18,000 state and local agencies last week advised local authorities to look out for plastic-foam containers, inner tubes and other waterborne flotsam commonly seen around marinas that could be rigged to blow up on contact. Also, the bulletin warned, terrorists might attach bombs to buoys. FBI and Department of Homeland Security officials say no such devices have actually been discovered, nor is there any current intelligence that terrorists are hatching plots involving floating bombs. But some officials believe al-Qaeda may be focusing on harbors and shipping channels in an effort to replicate the success of the October 2000 attack on the U.S.S. Cole in the port of Aden, in which suicide bombers used a small launch laden with explosives to rip a 40-ft. hole in the warship's hull, killing 17 sailors.
The Department of Homeland Security raised the U.S. terror threat level from elevated to high Sunday, warning of possible terrorist strikes more devastating than the attacks of September 11, 2001.
Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge said the move was the result of a "substantial increase" in the volume of intelligence pointing to "near-term attacks that could either rival or exceed what we experienced on September 11."
Ridge urged the public to be patient with stricter security measures "in the coming days and weeks" and to proceed with holiday plans despite the threat.
"America is a country that will not be bent by terror," he said.
A senior administration official familiar with the decision said the volume of threats was "significantly higher" and was coming from known sources but that there was "nothing site-specific."
Top officials discussed the matter among themselves and with President Bush for several days. The intelligence "reached the level at which we felt this is [the] right decision, to ramp up in time for [the] holidays," the senior administration official said.