U.S. officials say they have discovered information about what they are calling a “credible threat” of a specific attack planned to coincide with the 10th anniversary of the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks.
Sources told U.S. news media Thursday the information suggests the threat may focus on Washington, DC or New York City. Officials say they suspect three individuals, one a U.S. citizen, entered the U.S. in August intending to attack with a bomb-laden vehicle. One news organization, ABC News, is also reporting that authorities are seeking two rental trucks that have gone missing.
The White House said President Barack Obama was updated on the threat information throughout the day. A White House official told reporters the government had already “significantly enhanced” security and readiness efforts in advance of the September 11 anniversary, but the President Thursday called on counterterrorism authorities to “redouble” their efforts to protect the U.S. from any attacks.
Officials say the threat is unconfirmed and that they are continuing to investigate. They say they are considering whether to brief local police about what to look for and whether to make the information public. The government is also considering whether to raise the country’s terrorist alert level.
Earlier Thursday, Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano said intelligence officials have lately picked up more “chatter” on terrorist websites. She said the U.S. is taking all of the talk seriously.
Earlier this week, the United States raised the alert level at its domestic military bases as a precaution.
Meanwhile, the U.S. says terrorists are now struggling to secure steady financing.
Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner told a symposium in Washington Thursday that al-Qaida can “no longer rely on a thick Rolodex ((contact list)) and a simple bank transfer.”
Geithner said that the struggle to secure cash is the result of ongoing U.S. and international efforts to identify terror donors and hit them with sanctions. He also said that the death of al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden has also hurt the group’s fundraising efforts.
The Treasury Department chief says al-Qaida’s current financial struggles contrast greatly with the terror group’s financial standing 10 years ago, when it carried out attacks on the World Trade Center in New York and the Pentagon. Still, he warned the terror group is resilient and will continue to find ways to access money.
U.S. President Barack Obama’s top anti-terror advisor also addressed the symposium. John Brennan said even though “virtually every major al-Qaida affiliate has lost its key leader or operational commander,” the terror group continues to plot against the U.S.
Separately, the former co-chair of the bipartisan 9-11 Commission told U.S. lawmakers Thursday the country is still not as secure or as safe as it should be.
Former congressman Lee Hamilton told the House of Representative’s Homeland Security Committee the country’s various anti-terror agencies still suffer from a lack of unified leadership. He called for additional improvement in sharing critical intelligence across anti-terror agencies.
Hamilton’s request was supported by U.S. Comptroller General Gene Dodaro, who heads the Government Accountability Office.
Dodaro said the country needs a law making it clear that the director of national intelligence is the nation’s topmost intelligence authority.
The very first secretary of Homeland Security also appeared before the House panel.
Former secretary Tom Ridge cautioned that no matter how hard anti-terror officials work, another attack is likely.